Judge fines Chinese casino manager for trying to bribe police - Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Friday 15th May 2020

A Chinese woman who tried to bribe a police officer with $10,000 in 2007, has been fined $50,000 by a High Court judge who accepted the plea deal she made with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

It was the second plea-deal hearing since the Criminal Procedure (Plea Discussion and Plea Agreement) Act was proclaimed in January 2019.

In keeping with the provisions of the act, Justice Hayden St Clair-Douglas accepted Yan Fang Hong's plea during a virtual hearing on Friday. She has seven days to pay the fine. The judge imposed a default sentence of six months' simple imprisonment if she fails to pay.

Fang Hong is only expected to pay $10,000 which she has told the court she will pay by next week since she has already paid, to the court, $40,000 which was part of her previous bail condition.

St Clair-Douglas also ordered that the $10,000 cash she paid to the officer, to avoid being charged, be handed over to the registrar of the High Court to determine if it can be exchanged for the new polymer $100 bills. If it cannot, the money remains as illegal tender or "useless currency notes," the judge said. But if it can be exchanged by the Central Bank, it will be forfeited to the State.

Fang Hong, 47, was charged by the officer during his routine visit to a casino in Princes Town on April 5, 2007.

At Friday's hearing, she was at her attorney's Rajiv Persad's office. The judge, prosecutor Danielle Thompson, and court-approved interpreter Carol Williams-Mitchell were at their respective home offices.

After going through the process for the plea-agreement hearing, Fang Hong was arraigned. Thompson said the State had no objection to a non-custodial sentence and the payment of a fine. She said the State was accepting the plea deal because of the age of the offence, to save judicial time, and the non-violent nature of the offence.

Thompson told the court, Insp Edward Castillo went to the Princess Members' club in Princes Town when he saw the casino had extra gambling machines, contrary to what was stipulated by law. He told Fang Hong she should pay her taxes for the extra machines on the premises or have them removed. She was also warned that she could face prosecution or the casino would be ordered shut if she did not comply. Castillo gave her time to rectify the situation. Sometime later, he got a call from Fang Hong and returned to the casino with other officers, including his senior ASP Chanderban Maharaj. While in Fang Hong's office, she handed Castillo an envelope containing $10,000 in $100 bills.

She told the officer, "Me give you $10,000 so you no charge me and no police come back again." Fang Hong was arrested and taken to the Princes Town police station.

In February, St Clair-Douglas ordered Fang Hong, who was expected to attend court at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain for a status hearing, not to come to court since she had, only days before, on February 1, arrived in Trinidad from China. The judge's order was taken as a precaution because of her "physical contact" she would have had in China.

At that hearing, Fang Hong, who was given permission to travel to visit her daughter for the holidays, had to surrender her passport since she missed a court date at the San Fernando High Court, and a warrant for her arrest was issued by the judge.

Fang Hong, who has residency status in TT, had traveled from China to New York and then to TT and was screened but not quarantined as she showed no signs of illness when she arrived in the country. According to immigration, she is allowed entry into TT until January 13, 2025.

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