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Colonial Cases

R v. Halket [1873]

larceny - embezzlement

Supreme Court for China

Shanghai, 14, 27 May 1873

Source: Supreme Court of China (Shanghai), Judges' Notebooks, The National Archives (U.K.), FO1092: 339, pp 75-92

R. v. R. W. Halket

Mr. Cooper, solicitor for the defendant, applies that the trial of the accused in respect of the several charges on which he was committed, stated for Monday the 19th inst., be postponed until Tuesday, the 27th.


Tuesday, 27th May 1873

R. v. Richard Webb Halket

Indictment ("A") Larceny as a servant of the Emperor of China of, on the 5th Jan 1873 Haikwan taels 1979; 7th Feb H Tls 2217; 5th March H Tls 1141; and a valuable security (money order) on each of the said dates.

Embezzlement (as a servant of Robert Hart) of the above sums and valuable securities on the above dates.

Common Larceny of the above sums on the said dates the property of either the Emperor of China or Robert Hart.

Jurors, sworn: J. Searle; N. A. Turnbull; [?]. W. Little; W. N. Daniel; J. Sharp.

Messrs. Litchfield and Wainwright for the prosecution.

Messrs. Brown and Cooper for the defence.

Objection to jurisdiction (Note - not pleaded)

Queen v. Keener Law Rept I C Cases [?????] 115

Objection agst Indictment - retention of money or Security accounts.

Charges agst "Govt." & "Hart."

Ct. See " Regina v. Masters"

"Not Guilty"

Thomas Dick

I am Commr of Customs at this Port. I have been in the service since June 1861. I have servd in sevl capacities. I am well acquainted with the duties of the office. I have been Commr at other Ports. I recd my appointment from Mr. Hart. He is Inspector Genl of foreign Customs. He was appointd by the Tongli Yamen - Bd of foreign affairs. It has genl control in all matters relating to the Customs. It is a board apponted by E of China. I have genl control over Employees of the office. I have nothing to do with their appointments or with their duties. I know the Prisoner. He was employed as Accountant. He has filled other offices in the Customs service. He was appointed Accountant in Feby 1870. He ceased to be Accountant the 7th March - he had been appointed to Foochow. The Prisoner knew the duties of the office & performed them. His duties were to receive money orders from me - to make payments agst the orders - to do this he has to change these Orders at the Hangyuan Bk & after making payment to pay the balance to an a/c at the B. B. C. known as A/ct A in the name of Mr. H. as I. G. of Customs. The sums he has to pay are on a/ct of Salaries - the balance he has to pay in is on that on each month's expenditure.

[Margin Note: Consular No. 1 handed in.] A Copy of the Consular defining duties of Accountt was [?????????] to Accountant.

15,000 H Tls was allowed per month for expenses. I used to send requisitions to [Tantri] when I wanted money to draw on the 15,000 tls on one or two accounts. In this form. They came to me in a letter from the [tantri] who is Superintendent. I send the Cheque I so receive to Mr. Halket. A receipt was made out by the Accountant, initiated by him & sent to me to sign. I sent it to the [Tantri]. I produce a receipt for 3000 in [Dec] Jany 12000 balance of Customs allowance. They were initated by Prisoner & signed by me. These two represent Jany one for 3000 & one for 12000 also for Feby March. The Accountt changed these [large] cheques at the Haikwan Bank. He gets a cheque for the balance which he keeps until the claims for the month have been exhausted. The safe is the property of the Customs department, the cheque is kept in this Safe until the end of the month. The final balance to be paid into the Occidental Bk on the next month to Ac/t of A.

This is Cash Bk of Ac/t A, it is kept by the Prisoner. This is his handwriting - folio 77. 79 receipts from [Tantri}. Balance appears under date 79 fol of Jany 5th ; credit side various payments. On credit side of fol. 79 there is the entry Jany 5 Balance 1979. 31 pd O. B. C.

Fol. 80

81 2217. 13

I first suspected about the 18th of April. I caused enquiry to be made at O. B. C. & found that payment had not been made. On the eveng of 10th of April I told Mr. Halket that he had not paid in the balance of the A Ac/t [????] the Bk [????] balance. He said, who told you that. I sd I had ascertained it from the O. B. C. I held out no inducement or threat. He said that the money had not been pd in - he had taken it himself & that it had all gone in share speculation. He has not paid or accounted for the balance in any way. The I. G. is the only person who can draw on the Ac/t. I. G. is a servt of the C. govt. He accounts for them to the Chinese govt.


I am the [???????????] of W. Fitzroy. The duties of Commr have been extended. I have known Mr. H. since 1862. I have never been an intimate friend of his. I do know from Mr. Hart that he rec[commende]d his appoointment. I appointed Mr. Halket with Mr. Hart's consent to the Post of Accountant. I told him an Accountt was necessary. I recd a letter of [?????] from Mr. H. (produced). The duties of Accountt had been performed by a 3rd Class Clk. His duties were to keep the Commrs Ac/ts. Prior to that time Mr [Towl] kept the Cash under direction of Commr. After 1871 the Cash was confided to cashier. The whole of the Cash is supposed to be kept by the Commr as balance of the Commr & I. G. The I. G. generally looked to me as chief officer. All monies are recd in my name. The I. G. looks to me to a/ct for it. I had full confidence in Mr. Halket. I had two authorities from Mr. Hart, one genl one special. Mr. Halket may have signed subsidiary a/cts for me. I don't remember having instructed Mr. Halket

[Margin note: But he has himself stated paid into A/ct A.]

where to keep the amount. As regards the I. G. Mr. Halket does not answer to him, but to me, & I answer to the I. G. As between the I. G. & myself Mr. H. is recognised as Custodian of the money as Cashier.

[Margin note : no matter]

I don't think Mr. Hart knew I left the cash in Mr. Halket's hands.

A/c A refers to salaries & Expenditure of Customs Staff

B Fines & Confiscations

C Tonnage dues

D Miscellaneous monies

E Special a/ct no period

A is a monthly a/c

B Quarterly

C Monthly [???????] quarterly

D Monthly

[margin note: When ought these to be kept.]

There were balances generally on these ac/ts. Average balance of A about 1800 tls or 2000 on all accounts.

More than 20,000 tls go through his hands, perhaps more than 3000 tls for month balance. All the cash was to be paid in. Cashier required to keep balances distinct.

I am not aware he had any instructions to keep these accounts distinct. I never gave him any but he ought to have done so. I have given him orders & chits on very few occasioins to pay money. An order produced. I cannot say that there was any particular orders as to what balance the order was to be paid out of. There was no specific account. The accountant knew out of what balances the orders were paid - the cheques ought to be kept separate. There is not much money kept in the safe. I have not such knowledge. I have not known he has 7000 tls in [???] in his chest. The I. G. never authorised any one other than the Cashier to keep the cash. There are no special regulations about a cashier. There are instructions as to pay office which is part of my office. It was Halket's duty to keep money in safe or in to the Bank. Commr used to do his own payments in 1871. There was nothg extraordy in trhe cessation because the amounts had generally been made by the Acctt. No special instructions had been given - but the Acctt knew that it was his duty to pay balances into the difft accounts. It was a matter of discretion ?

Prisoner in what form he was to take the money from the Bk. He could change the cheques he had because he was the holder. He had authority to change them for the purpose of paying sums that he was authorized to pay by me. There would be nothing wrong in his changing the cheques if he kept them but he ought only to do so to make the payments I had authorized him to make. So long as the money or cheques were in the Safe it was not material what form or for what amounts they were in. It was not necessary when in the Safe - they could be kept in separate balances as long as all the balances were there.

Mr. Halket was in the habit of drawing money from the monthly payments for himself & others. The amount may have been about 1000 for month, most months it was less. It was not his duty to ask me what partlar cheque he was to take out of safe. He was quite at liberty to take cheques out of Safe or Bk & pay it into Agra Bk on his own Ac/t for transmission home, sendg drafts home to England.

[Margin scored emphasis following lines.]

I know he drew money for people at home, but not through what Bk. I [know/knew] not/now that he did make payments thro' the Agra Bk. When he was arrested he left all his papers in my charge. Amongst them I found statements of small sums havg been paid into advance to public servants. I believe he did make advances to my private [Saly?] sometimes a month in advance. Up to Feby last I had no suspicion that money was not as safe in Mr Halket's hands as in the Bank.

[Margin note: If of opinion that he had the use of the money.]

I am aware now that sometimes cheques drawn by me were not used by Mr. Halket. If I had examined my books I should have learnt this. I did not know in 1872 if Prisoner was engaged in share speculation. Before that I did. Mr. Hart is not here, nor do I expect him. I know from Prisrs personal papers that Pris. made an application to Mr. Hart for a loan. He applied to me for a loan. I asked for security for the loan. I refused to lend the money - I did not think him likely to embezzle money - but I did not like to lend him any witht security. In his Cash Book Pris. represents balances have been paid by him to O. B. C. He never told me so - he only represented it in his Cash Book & in letters which he wrote for me to sign. A balance appearing in March 1872 might represent an appropriation a year before. I should have no means of saying from what actual balance in chest

[Margin note: Only a surmise.]

The appropriation had been made as far as cash Book is concerned. The cash balances were not inspected by me. There was a weekly balance Book kept by me. I omitted sending it to him or rather he omitted to send for it. In Sept 1872 my confidence was the same in him. I was very busy at the time. I don't think an examination of the weekly cash balance would have enabled me to detect the fraud unless I compared the balance with the cash actually in the Safe. I gave him the Bk in Feby to make up. I called for it in March.

I believe I did say to Pris. "you may as well [margin note ? which used] had better tell the truth as the facts will soon be known" or something to that effect. I had then obtained from him about 10,000 Tls before I went to speak to him about all the other balances. The deficiencies of the other balances I had then only just found out & I went to speak to him about them. It was then after he admitted the deficiency on the A Ac/t that I told him he had better tell me all, as it was only a matter of time my finding them out. I feel very sure about it - my recollection is very clear. I had no authority to arrest him. I did not know that I had no authority to take legal proceedings. No order has been made to hold a Ct of Inquiry into this matter - the whole thing is under inquiry. The [rule] mentd by you refers to cases where criminal proceedings may not be necessary.

Adjoiurnt 1 hour.

The rules are binding on all servants in the Customs, Section 50 provides for fraud. I did not consult Mr. Hart before I took criminal proceedings. I consulted my legal adviser. An application was made to me for copies of the Rule. I refused. I consider it fair to refuse. I am not aware that the I. Gl has expressed his disappointment of the course I have pursued. I do not consider myself responsible for the deficits. I have taken no other steps to dismiss him from the service except his arrest.


I arrested him on my own responsibility. I have since recd authority to prosecute from the I. G. He has no power to pay except by my authority. He has the power to cash cheques & pay them away - but he cannot do so rightly except by virue of my authority. It is his duty to show in his cash Book how the money was dealt with. I had full confidence in him until I found him out. No one is called on to give Bonds in the Customs. Salaries fixed by Mr. Hart. I first became aware of his share speculations at end of 1870. I then lent him two small amounts. He wanted me to lend or guarantee him for 2 or 3000 $. A few months later he mentd that he had made some money out of share speculation. He said also he had had money left him. The Accountant ought to know from what Ac/t the order in favour of [?????] was payable. He ought not to have mixed up accounts of the sums recd & payable.

I have found defalcations on all accounts. Deficit on 1 Ac/t was made right & another nearly made right. - E & subsidary Ac/t of C. The Ac/ts rendered to I. General made up monthly. In Feby 72 he asked to be allowed to remain in the pay office. I did not remove him in consequence. I have been unusually busy the last 9 months, that was the reason why I omuitted to send for weekly balance book.

By the Ct.

I appointed Mr. Halket to his present place in the ordy exercise of the duties of my office as Commr of Customs.

Colin Jamieson

I am the present accountant. I have examined A. I have exd all other Books in the Accountant's Office. The sevl items charged on have not been accounted for. I have no trace of any sums of 1979.31 Tls - sum of 2217.13 in fol. 81, sum of 1141.14 in fol 82 - in any books of the Customs. All items are in his handwriting.


I have been in Customs 7 yrs. I have done Accountant's work in Tientsin. I succeeded Mr. Halket on the 17 of March. Mr. Dick put me in charge. I could get the requisite knowledge in one month. I consider I had a thorough knowledge when the Charge agst Halket was made. I do not think there are other Books than those I have seen. I should consider I was obliged to go into any Departt the I. G. sent me to.

F. G. Groom

I have acted as Broker for the Prisoner in buying & selling shares. I recd monies from the Prisoner on the 6th Jany for 2500 by cheques on Agra Bk on his own Ac/t. It was paid to me as margin on shares which he requested me to take up. I recd on 14th Jany a further sum of money 1000 Tls. It was paid by a Bankers order - a Native order - I paid it into Agra Bk in my own Ac/t. It was for the same purpose.

Wong tze wo

Accountant at the Haiyuan Bk. X^

T. G. Gardner

I am accountant in the O. B. C. I have charge of the Account Ledgers showing Customers Accounts. I have the Books here showing I. Gs accounts with the Bk. He keeps A, B, C, D & Z. In account A only one payment on 21 st of Decr - 1955.17. There is no other payment until 1 st of May of this year. No such sums as those in the Indictment have been paid in into any other Ac/t. I have exd them carefully - nor any sums that could have included that. Previous to Decr we have had sevl payments from Customs made by Prisoner.


We balance ac/ts twice a month - we have no ac/t with Mr. Dick or Mr. Halket. Balances are sent to Customs half yearly - we collect the Chinese charges.

By the Ct.

It is possible that these 3 amounts were paid into other ac/ts.

Re X

Into a/c B [three] has been paid since 1 st of Decr.

C 16 Decr - 1921.26

D 30 Decr - 705.71

Z no payments have been made into Ac/t Z by the Customs.

The sum of 1755 H Taels in the A is entered on 21 st of Decr as payment to the O.B.C. as Balance for Novr.



I have to do with Tantri's cheques. I find no cheque for 3000 taels. 17th day 11 moon - 17 Decr. For Decr Salaries. It has all been paid.

On the 26th Decr, 12,000 tls was paid in - that cheque is exhausted. Of this 519.24 was paid to Agra Bk.

11 Jany Tantri's cheque 3000 Tls. 2 were paid to Agra Bk, 1000 & 952 Tls. That cheque is exhausted. 27th 12 Moon 25 Jany, 12,000 Taels. That is also exhausted. Nothing was paid of that to Agra Bk.

Out of the 25th Jany cheque there is short of 31 Taels due.

10th day of 1 st moon 3000 exhausted. 500 Tls to Agra Bk.

2 of 2nd moon 8500. 31 taels yet to be paid.

X They do no other business besides Customs business except Revenues.

S. Kelly

Accountant of Agra Bk. Accused has a private ac/t. I have the Book.

On 2nd of Jany balance to Cr was 1721 Tls 18.

On the 2nd Jany was paid in 686.46 by 9 Orders & some notes. 519 Taels was one of the Native Orders.

3rd . 306 Tls.

9th 856.45

11th. 3501.61 Taels, On Deb. Side 89.12

23rd 876.75 - 2500 Tls paid to Groom. 952 Tls 43 from Native Order was paid in 164 This was then standing to his credit.


I have only been here since Feby. 29 March 1873 is a cheque drawn by Mr. Halket 364 in favour of Smidt. [????] to Insurance Compy due from Mr. Dirk [?????] of I. Compy. (this is an official paymt.) Great many paid to Chinese.

Pltff's Case.

Objection - only evidence given as to 1, 17, 13 Counts.

Objection - That the E. of China had not ascended the throne - not in existence - [property] improperly laid.

Guilty on 1, 7 & 13 Counts.

Imprisoned for the space of 2 yrs.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School