A Hong Kong police officer was sentenced to 10 months in jail on Friday after he used a counterfeit watch to replace a HK$425,000 (US$54,316) Rolex that was turned in as lost property.
Judge Katherine Lo Kit-yee of the District Court said it was “regrettable” that constable Chow Hop-chun, 28, succumbed to greed and lost the job he dreamed of as a child. She said Chow had nonetheless committed a serious offence, and found him guilty of one count of theft.
Lo said the crime was made worse because Chow had been expected to enforce the law in his position as assistant duty officer at Cheung Sha Wan Police Station on June 26, 2017 – the day he stole the luxury watch.
“Although the case did not involve a breach of trust, it was of a very serious nature. Immediate imprisonment is the only sentencing option,” Lo said. She told Chow: “I hope you will turn over a new leaf and serve the community in another position after your release.”
At an earlier hearing, Lo ruled that Chow, who has been suspended since July 2017, intended to steal the blue Rolex Cally-Daytona after a man handed it over to him at the station’s report room.
Chow said he put the watch in his belt bag but forgot where he had put it after he was distracted from his duties. He said he submitted a fake black-faced Rolex he bought in Shenzhen for a few hundred Hong Kong dollars to the exhibit office to “buy time” as he searched for the real one.
Chow told the judge that he found the real watch in the same bag and returned it to the exhibit office. He said he threw the fake watch in the ocean.
But prosecutors said Chow only returned the real Rolex after the owner called the station upon learning that his watch had been turned in.
Lo rejected Chow’s version of events as unbelievable, pointing out that he submitted his fake watch to the exhibit office just six minutes after he signed the receipt for the real Rolex.
In mitigation, Chow’s lawyer Charlotte Wong described her client as a conscientious man who was frugal, honest, reliable and had a strong sense of justice.
She submitted seven mitigation letters from Chow’s parents, girlfriend, colleagues and friends, all of whom said the case was out of character. She said he was sorry for the crime that would end his career with the Hong Kong Police Force.
Lo said a theft case involving a loss of HK$400,000 would usually earn a jail sentence of 27 months, but she opted for a starting point of 18 months because of the circumstances.
She said Chow’s prison term was reduced by four months because he had returned the real watch to the station.
“Although his returning of the real watch gave the appearance that he wanted to evade criminal liabilities, the owner of the watch did not suffer any loss in the end,” she said.
She granted a further deduction of four months after finding his offence to be improvised and as consolation for losing his job.
A police spokesperson said the force would initiate disciplinary procedures after the conclusion of the judicial process.
This article Hong Kong police officer gets 10 months in jail for stealing US$54,000 Rolex turned in as lost property first appeared on South China Morning Post