Hong Kong jewellery tycoon jailed for kickbacks, fraud

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong jewellery tycoon was jailed on Friday for paying millions in illegal kickbacks to local travel agents to bring tourists to his showrooms, tax fraud and other offences.

Tse Sui-luen, 71, the billionaire founder of Tse Sui Luen (TSL) Jewellery, was jailed for three years and three months. His son, Tommy Tse, was jailed for five years on similar charges.

Tse, a former goldsmith’s apprentice who built one of Hong Kong’s largest jewellery chains, was convicted of paying illegal rebates to travel agents to herd tourists from China, Japan and Southeast Asia to his showrooms and then massively overcharging them.

The company referred to the scheme, which lasted years, as the “James Bond Project,” the court heard.

TSL had dished out over HK$100 million ($12.8 million) in kickbacks to travel agents between 1996 and 2005, local media reported.

“Lying became a matter of TSL corporate policy,” judge Kevin Browne said in his judgment on April 25th, convicting Tse of offering advantages to agents, false accounting and conspiracy to steal thousands of dollars from his own company.

Before sentencing, a number of Hong Kong’s leading figures, including action film-star Jackie Chan, wrote letters urging leniency for a man they described as a hardworking entrepreneur.

Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie