A Hong Kong police officer stole a HK$425,000 (US$54,500) Rolex watch that was handed in at a station and replaced it with a counterfeit, a court was told on Monday.
The District Court heard that Constable Chow Hop-chun, 28, stole the luxury blue-faced watch after the man who found it turned it in to Cheung Sha Wan Police Station on June 26, 2017.
Chow pleaded not guilty to one count of theft.
Under police procedures, Chow was required to place the lost property in a sealed envelope, have it endorsed by the duty officer and submit it to the exhibit office for storage, prosecutors told the court.
But Chow allegedly took a fake Rolex with a black dial from his locker and told another officer in the exhibit office that it was the one that had been handed in - nine minutes after he received the real watch.
Chow sent an endorsed closed envelope with the fake timepiece inside to the exhibit office, only to be told the watch should have been placed in a box first, the court heard. He later returned to the office with a closed envelope containing the real watch, but without the endorsement by the duty officer.
Under caution, Chow said he lost the real watch immediately after he had been given it. He searched the lift lobby, stairways, report room and three other floors he had not previously been on that day, but still could not find it. Fearing he might lose his job, he used the fake Rolex as a temporary replacement before he could locate the real one.
After Chow was told to put the watch into the box for storage, he found the real Rolex in a nylon bag tied to his waist. He removed the fake one from the envelope and dumped it in the sea out of fear after work.
Li Man-yiu, who handed in the real Rolex to the station, played on the same soccer team as the owner of the watch. Li said he reported the case to police rather than returning the watch directly because he was worried about losing the luxury item.
"(The owner) said the watch was very expensive. If there were any accidents, I could not bear the responsibility," Li said.
The trial was expected to last three days.
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