Businessman, ranked among China's richest in 2007, gets 5 months' jail for passport offence

Mick Davies, 56, was sentenced to five months' jail on Thursday (Nov 3) for making use of a foreign travel document which was not issued to him. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A businessman who was ranked by Forbes as the 70th richest man in China in 2007 was sentenced to five months' jail on Thursday (Nov 3) for making use of a foreign travel document which was not issued to him.

Mick Davies, who is from China and is now a Singapore citizen living here, is appealing against the sentence. Bail of $80,000 pending appeal was allowed.

The 56-year-old, also known as Lan Shili, had admitted to using a Hong Kong passport bearing the name of Fu Ching for travel at the Changi Airport's arrival section on July 12 this year.

A well-known entrepreneur and once the richest man in Hubei province, he left a government job at the age of 25 to set up a company, with a capital of just 270 yuan, selling computers, according to media reports. In 2005, he started East Star Airlines to add to his businesses in areas including real estate, tourism and telecoms.

But the airline went bankrupt in 2009, and the next year, he was sentenced to four years in jail in China for tax evasion. Illness saw him released early in 2013.

In the current case, the court heard that he left Singapore for Guangzhou, China, in February this year on a business trip.

Sometime in March, he was detained by the police in China in relation to a purported complaint of fraud lodged by a previous business partner. He was later released on bail, and told not to leave China. His passport was impounded.

He stayed in China for the next three months, but eventually decided to return to Singapore. On July 9, he entered Vietnam illegally by boat, arriving the next day.

He sought help from the Singapore Embassy in Hanoi to get a replacement travel document but was told that some time would be needed to process the application for a document of identity and to verify his particulars.

Unwilling to report to the Vietnamese authorities to explain how he had entered the country, he paid 55,000 yuan (S$11,336) to a Vietnamese woman for a Hong Kong passport bearing the particulars of Fu Ching, 36, who looked like him, and a plane ticket to return home on July 12.

He was arrested at Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority building on July 27.

His lawyer Chung Ting Fai had said that Davies was in a state of fear due to threats by the people he was doing business with. After failed attempts at getting a passport in Guangzhou, and being worried about his personal well-being and health, he resorted to entering Singapore in another manner, he said.

District Judge Low Wee Ping said even if what Davies said was true or relevant, he did not think it was a mitigating factor.

He said Davies had committed a serious offence. In imposing five months' jail, the judge took into account the two-month and 23-day remand spent by Davies.

Two other charges - lying at the Singapore Embassy in Hanoi in an attempt to get a document of identity and getting a visit pass by stating that he was Fu Ching in the disembarkation form - were taken into consideration.

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