Ex-site team leader charged by ICAC jailed for wage fraud in Third Runway workers’ employment bribery case
A former site team leader of a sub-contractor of the Third Runway Project of the Hong Kong International Airport (Third Runway Project) was today (March 21) sentenced to three months’ imprisonment at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts for deceiving the sub-contractor into paying higher daily wages to four summer job seekers by making false representations that they were experienced plumbers. The defendant was among 21 people charged by the ICAC with bribery over Third Runway Project workers’ employment arising from the relevant investigation.
Lam Huang Chaofan, 53, former plumbing works site team leader of MLife Engineering Limited (MEL), earlier pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, contrary to Section 16A(1) of the Theft Ordinance.
In sentencing, Magistrate Mr Jeffrey Sze Cho-yiu said that the Third Runway Project was involved in the case and the behavior of the defendant undermined the public confidence. The court had to mete out a deterrent punishment so that practitioners in the industry would be warned to stay vigilant against malpractices.
The magistrate took a starting point of four and a half months imprisonment and reduced the jail term of the defendant to three months having considered his guilty plea.
The court heard that MEL was a sub-contractor of the Third Runway Project responsible for recruiting construction workers to conduct various works. The defendant was employed by MEL as site team leader of a team of plumbers at the project’s construction site. In August 2021, he referred four people to join MEL as plumbers at a daily wage of $1,200, but MEL subsequently found that they had no plumbing experience.
Upon receipt of corruption complaints, the ICAC had taken a series of enforcement actions against illicit acceptance of illegal rebates from construction workers of Third Runway Project since 2021. Enquiries revealed that the four people were summer job seekers who had just completed their secondary school studies. They were told by the defendant that their daily wage was $950, but they subsequently found that the daily wage shown on their contracts was $1,200 and the defendant had asked them to return the daily wage difference.
Had MEL known the four people had no plumbing experience, it would not have employed them as plumbers at a daily wage $1,200 and would only employed them as general workers at a daily wage of $950. MEL had paid extra wages totaling $50,000 to the four people because of the defendant’s false representations.
The Airport Authority Hong Kong, the relevant main contractor SAPR JV and MEL had rendered full assistance to the ICAC during its investigation into the case.
Among the 21 former employees of the main contractor and a sub-contractor of the Third Runway Project charged earlier, 11 had pleaded guilty or were found guilty after trial, receiving sentences up 10 months in jail. Nine others are awaiting trial, while the prosecution offered no evidence to the charge against a defendant.
The prosecution was today represented by ICAC officer Cody Chung.