No more live-in helpers for me, Hong Kong tycoon ‘Dandy’ Lau says after losing over $95,000 worth of jewellery in theft

His helper, jailed by a court, said she stole to get fired as she wanted to go back to Indonesia but was afraid to broach the topic

Tycoon Jerome Lau outside court on his choice of clothing colour: ‘Everything should be in black and white.’
South China Morning Post / Jasmine Siu

Hong Kong tycoon Jerome Lau Ting-sing said on Monday he would not hire live-in domestic helpers again after his Indonesian maid was jailed for stealing HK$749,000 (US$95,700) worth of jewellery, which he had to reclaim from four local pawn shops.

The 67-year-old businessman, more widely known as “Dandy Lau”, watched in court as his former domestic helper was sentenced to 20 months in jail by the District Court after she pleaded guilty to one count of theft.

Judge Stanley Chan Kwong-chi said the case was “a good example” of a greedy domestic helper exploiting an elderly employer, something he said could not be tolerated just as abusing domestic helpers was not condoned.

“This case could be the tip of the iceberg,” Chan said. “She blatantly abused the trust placed by her employer.”

The court heard that Lau called police last July after discovering three rings were missing from the storage room of his Happy Valley flat. Only he and his domestic helper had access, and there were no signs of a burglary.

A subsequent house search by police found that Qomariyah, his domestic helper, had nine pawnshop receipts carrying her name and identity card number.

It later emerged that Qomariyah had pawned 26 pieces of jewellery – each valued between HK$3,000 (US$390) and HK$150,000 (US$19,000)– to four shops in return for HK$47,700 (US$6,000) between November 2016 and July last year.

Eighteen pieces, valued at HK$749,000 (US$95,700), belonged to Lau.

Upon her arrest, Qomariyah told police: “I wanted to go back to Indonesia, but I didn’t dare to tell my employer so I stole from him to get fired.”

She admitted to stealing while cleaning Lau’s home, where she had worked at for almost two years after his mother died.

Lau later confirmed with police that he had never given or lent the jewellery to his domestic helper.

On Monday, Qomariyah, 31, who had no prior criminal record, apologised to Lau through her lawyer and revealed in mitigation that she was a breadwinner under a heavy burden to support her parents and four siblings at home.

“By nature the defendant is not evil,” lawyer Norman Chui Pak-ming said. “She committed the offence out of foolishness.”

But the judge retorted: “It’s not foolishness, it’s greediness. Foolishness is not the right word. She’s foolish because she used her own identity card to pawn the items. She’s outright greedy.”

Outside court, a “hurt and disappointed” Lau said justice was served.

“She deserved it,” he said. “She stole repeatedly for four years and now I have to use my own money to redeem what was mine.”

When asked if he would hire domestic helpers again, Lau replied: “I did, but I have a phobia now. No more live-in helpers any more … or I’d have to watch her all night.”

Lau made headlines in 2012 when he was jailed for 17 months for molesting a young male model and threatening to publicise explicit photos of two others. He lost an appeal against the conviction the following year.

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