Hong Kong

'Moulin Rogue' given 12 years for fraud

By Timothy Chui (HK Edition)
Updated: 2010-12-03 07:12
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The patriarch and scion of the Ma family each have been sentenced to more than a decade in jail, for the roles they played in the collapse of what once was claimed to be the third largest eyewear company, Moulin Global Eyecare Holdings (MGEH).

Founding chairman Ma Bo-kee started the firm in a small workshop in the 1960s. He built it into a multi-billion-dollar empire with the help of a network of family and friends in Hong Kong and Chiu Chow.

Ma became widely credited for bankrolling Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton's first forays into motorsport by sponsoring the racer at the 2004 Macao Grand Prix.

Thursday, Ma stood stoically as Justice Peter Line sentenced him to 12 years' imprisonment for inflating the firm's turnover and for misleading auditors.

Line added the 67-year-old's sentence was also intended "to let those in other board rooms of public companies know that breach of the public's trust on this scale will not be tolerated and that long sentences of imprisonment await the guilty."

"I ... find it to be an aggravation ... that you recruited friends and relatives to this fraud, playing on their loyalty to you," he added.

Following a series of high profile takeovers and acquisitions, the company's hop through a series of auditors, from Ernst & Young through Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and finally CCIG, exposed an overextended company balancing huge bank loans with falsified sales and accounts.

Since bank liquidators moved on the company in 2005, just over HK$1 billion has been recovered, with HK$2.7 billion in bank credit unaccounted. Investors are still out HK$1.7 billion following the collapse of the company's stock.

Ma's son, 46-year old Cary Ma Kit-lin, the Chief Executive Officer of the MGEH, who was implicated in the day-to-day running of the scam, was given 10 years in prison for misleading auditors, inflating turnover and conspiracy to defraud 18 banks. The sentence was discounted because the younger Ma pleaded guilty.

Michelle Lam Yuk-wah, the company's treasurer and sister-in-law to the elder Ma, was sentenced to nine and a half years for her role in falsifying documents while her nephew Lam Chun-wai was given two years for money laundering. The nephew had set up a bank account to funnel falsified sales proceeds made to dummy companies back to Moulin.

Childhood friend of the younger Ma, Wong Ka-ho, was given four months in prison for setting up two bank accounts for Ma and turning a blind eye to their use, while Or Tak-yin, an employee of Ma for 30 years, was given a year's imprisonment for his role in duping auditors who flew to Canada to check the company's accounts.

China Daily

(HK Edition 12/03/2010 page1)