Assistant steals £4m from ex-Pompey owner Balram Chainrai

Balram Chainrai
Balram Chainrai
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The personal assistant of Balram Chainrai has admitted using the former Pompey chairman’s credit cards to run up bills of around £4m for beauty treatments and other expensive brand-name goods.

The South China Morning Post reported that Tong Sze-kiu, 41, pleaded guilty in the Court of First Instance in Hong Kong to 16 charges of theft and fraud between 2001 and 2010.

She also admitted in court using personal information about Chainrai to apply for two credit cards and deceiving him into signing cheques or forging his signature.

The newspaper reported that Tong’s lawyer, Patrick Cheung, said his client had been suffering with depression after an unsuccessful marriage.

He said that in a bid to escape her woes, she spent millions of Hong Kong dollars on beauty and weight-loss treatments as well as on expensive brand-name goods.

‘Tong committed the crime out of her illness rather than greed. It is very different from normal commercial crime’ Cheung is reported to have told the court.

The South China Morning Post report added that the defence lawyer told the judge his client had repaid almost half of the money taken and that Chanrai was so wealthy that the amount was not a large sum for him.

Prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang said Tong worked in Chainrai’s company in 1995 where her duties included dealing with Chainrai’s personal expenses.

In April 2010, Chainrai found that his credit cards had an overdrawn transaction and Tong admitted that she had used his credit cards for her personal purchases for years.

Investigators discovered that Tong treated friends to expensive hotels with some of the money she stole.

The newspaper reported that evidence showed that between February 2004 and April 2010, she used the card to make 2,040 transactions worth more than HK$11.7m (around £1m), including HK$2m for beauty treatment products, more than HK$5.3m for brand names goods, HK$437,000 for watches, more than HK$1.5m in travel and hotels, and HK$2.3m entertainment, meals and karaoke.

The report added that police inspector Tony Tse Tsz-fung said the brand names goods purchased included Gucci and Cartier watches and that Tong had enjoyed dinners in hotels that charged several thousand dollars per meal. She also spent about HK$5 million in beauty treatment and weight-loss treatment over the years.

The South China Morning Post reported that Tse said Chainrai trusted Tong implicitly as she had worked for him for many years.

Chainrai felt betrayed, he said, although he felt Tong was remorseful.

Deputy Judge Mr Justice Albert Wong Sung-hau told Tong she would be sentenced on February 4.

Chainrai, one of the richest men in the Far East, took control of Pompey in 2010 and sold the club the year later to Convers Sports Initiatives.