13 November 2013
A Hong Kong mother who took out two life insurance policies for her baby was found guilty of one count of fraud and one of attempted fraud for failing to disclose to the insurers that the child was also covered by a second policy and giving false information to the insurers when filling out the claims questionnaire.
The full details are as follows. On 11 December 2007, the Defendant, Man Choi-wa, gave birth to a baby girl. A month after – on 16 January 2008, the day she obtained the birth certificate – she took out a HK$2.5 million life insurance policy for her baby. On 31 January 2008, she bought a further life insurance policy for her baby from a second insurer in the sum of HK$2 million.
In April that year, the baby girl died when she and the Defendant were in Mainland China. The Defendant then claimed on the policies she had taken out with the insurers. The second insurer paid out HK$2 million under its policy in December 2008, but later discovered that the Defendant had failed to disclose that the child was already covered by a second policy. The matter was then reported to the police.
The Defendant was charged with one count of fraud for the claim made under the second policy and one count of attempted fraud against the other insurer. She pleaded not guilty to both charges.
In view of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the case, the insurer of the second policy and its legal advisors decided to interview the Defendant and this interview was video recorded. The trial judge held that the video of the interview was admissible evidence. He also found the prosecution witnesses to be honest and truthful. Based on the Defendant's admission in the video that she lied when filling out the claims questionnaire to prevent the insurer from further investigating the matter, the judge found her guilty of the charge of attempted fraud. She was also convicted of the charge of fraud.
The sentencing hearing has been adjourned to 19 November 2013 while the Defendant is remanded in custody.
As opined by his Honour Judge Lam, utmost good faith is required when parties enter into insurance contracts. When an insured tries to conceal material facts relating to a claim from an insurer or give the insurer false information in making a claim, the insured runs the risk of committing fraud. While this case is unique and turns on its facts, the video evidence of the interview proved not only to be crucial to insurers but to the criminal proceedings as well, as the evidence therein led to the conviction of the Defendant.