Three Russians were cleared of a theft charge in a Hong Kong court on Thursday after two pieces of evidence were deemed inadmissible over technicalities.
Starostin Aleksei, 36, Arustamov Sergey, 32, and Kerimov Farid, 25, were arrested by the police in connection with a robbery targeting an ATM in Tuen Mun last year, Apple Daily reported, citing a District Court trial.
The HSBC automatic teller machine in the Trend Plaza shopping mall was targeted early in the morning on February 17 last year, Apple Daily said.
CCTV footage showed Aleksei tryng to open the outer shell of an ATM, while Sergey was waiting by the door.
The police arrested the men and found that Aleksei’s backpack contained a USB cable, a USB flash drive and a laptop. The laptop had hacking software that would have allowed the pair to withdraw up to HK$1.39 million (US$179,113) from the ATM.
Farid, who was arrested later, had communicated with the two men through mobile messages.
Aleksei and Sergey claimed that they were tourists, while Farid said he was a tour guide, Ming Pao Daily reported.
The prosecutor failed to provide a record of who downloaded the malicious software from Aleksei’s laptop to a memory stick for a test. A police officer, who ran the test, admitted in court that he was not an expert on the software he examined. The judge rejected the memory stick as evidence.
Records of the three men’s mobile conversation, which showed that they had discussed their plan to steal money from the ATM, were also submitted as evidence in the courtroom.
The prosecutor could only tell the court how the records were downloaded from the suspects’ phones to a disc, and failed to provide a name of who had printed them out. The judge also rejected the mobile messages as evidence.
Given that the evidence presented could not be submitted, the three men were found not guilty. It was possible that they were just trouble makers, said Deputy District Judge Don So Man-lung.