The District Court has sentenced a former sergeant to two years behind bars for stealing HK$1.07 million worth of bail money from the Wan Chai Police Station.

Ex-sergeant Cheung Wai-lun, 43, pleaded guilty to theft on Monday. He told the court that he had hoped to use the money to win HK$1 million at casinos in order to pay off more than HK$1 million worth of gambling and investment debts.

The Wan Chai Police Station. File Photo: GovHK.

Cheung’s lawyer pleaded in mitigation that the incident had cost Cheung HK$2 million from his pension, his police housing and his family, since his wife divorced him after the arrest. The ex-sergeant deeply regretted his decision, the court heard.

‘Given himself up to vice’

The lawyer added that the HK$2 million pension Cheung had lost could cancel out the stolen money. Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man rejected the argument, saying that Cheung could not use money that did not belong to him as compensation.

The judge said Cheung was of good character but had “given himself up to vice.” He added that Cheung – as a veteran officer – should have foreseen the onerous consequences of committing a crime.

Cheung had the only key to the safe containing the bail money and took five bags of cash while on duty in May. He then left the station claiming he was going for lunch, but called his colleagues about two hours later to apologise. The force subsequently confirmed HK$1.07 million was missing.

A casino in Macau. File Photo: Wikicommons.

After losing the amount at casinos in Macau within a month, Cheung fled to Zhuhai in China. He surrendered in August to the Chinese authorities, who then transferred him to Hong Kong.

The court heard that Cheung and his wife were both habitual gamblers. His wife incurred HK$200,000 in gambling debts in 2009, while Cheung had accumulated HK$1 million in gambling and investment debts over the years.

Cheung was earning HK$30,000 a month before his employment was terminated in November. During his 24 years in the force, he was awarded more than 30 merits for his performance.

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.