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Colonial Cases

Ping Tsoh Tsen, 1877

[conspiracy to defraud]

Ping Tsoh Tsen

Mixed Court, Shanghai
14 March 1877
Source: The North China Herald, 22 March 1877



March 14th.

Before the Chinese Magistrate CHEN, and Dr. YATES, U.S. Assessor.

Charge of conspiring to defraud the Gas Company.

   A Chinese coal broker, named PING-TSOH-TSEN, was charged with conspiring with and assisting other people to defraud the Shanghai Gas Company of the value of a quantity of coal.

   Mr. R. E. WAINEWRIGHT appeared for the prosecution; and Mr. H. BROUGHAM MILLER defended the accused.

   A conversation first took place as to the mode of legal procedure in the Mixed Court in such cases; but the Assessor cut it short by saying that the invariable practice was to go the shortest way to obtain facts, by evidence brought forward.  Of legal technicalities, the Magistrate knew nothing - all he wanted was a plain statement of the facts of the case, and plenty of evidence to support them.

   Mer. WAINEWRIGHT thereupon simply stated the charge against the accused, as above given, and said he would call Mr. Yeo to give evidence regarding it.

   The ASSESSOR said the magistrate desitred to know weho were the other parties with #whom the accused was charged with conspiring?

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT replied that one of the aprties was named Belbin, until lately a clerk in the Company's employ.

   Mr. MILLER objected that the charge now stated, was not then charge first brought.  This was the first time that Belbin's name was brought into the case.

   The ASSESSOR - The Magistrate hopes that you will talk reason, and not indulge in too many technicalities.  He does not understand them.

   Mr. MILLER - I only say Belbin's name has not been mentioned before.

   The ASSESSOR (alluding to the preliminary enquiry), said Belbin's name had been held up all through it.

   Mr. G. J. YEO, examined by Mr. Wainewright, said - I am manager of the Shanghai gas Works.  The accused is a partner or in some way connected with a native hong that supplied coal to the works.  The name we knew the hong by was "Yuen-hang."  They, with others, supplied coal to the gas Works.

   Mr. MILLER objected that Mr. Yeo was absent in England at the time these alleged occurrences took place, and consequently could not know anything about then.  Then accused was a man of good reputation, and this was a charge affecting his character very materially.  He was a storekeeper among the Chinese, and his reputation was as much to him as that of any foreign storekeeper in the Settlements.  He knew nothing of these alleged transactions, being only the broker employed by the merchant t to sell coal for him.  He knew nothing of the delivery of the coal, and to being him into Court on a charge of conspiring to defraud, when he had no opportunity of doing it, was not right.  The accused should be dealt fairly with.  If others were implicated, let them be presented.

   Mr.  WAINEWRIGHT said if Mr. Yeo's evidence as to the part the accused had taken with respect  to the  sale of the coal to the Gas Company was disputed, he would call the compradore, but would only put one  question to hen, as he intended to continue Mr. Yeo's evidence.

   The compradore was accordingly called and said - I know the accused.  He belongs to "Yuen-hang" hong.  He has supplied coal to the Gas Company, and took part in its delivery at the Gas Works.

   The accused, who spoke "pidgin-English," denied that he ever took part in the delivery of the coal.

   The ASSESSOR questioned him on the point.

   Accused now said that he took coal to the Gas Works, and  delivered it there, but did not weight it or see it weighed.  Another man (also in Court) weighed it.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT asked Mr. Yeo what was the system adopted at the Gas Works, with regard to the reception and delivery of coal?

   Mr. YEO replied - When coal is delivered at the gas Works, a system if checking is adopted.  The merchant brings the coals for inspection at the works.  After it is inspected by myself - but during my absence in England Mr. Holmes, the assistant manager was to do that duty - it is weighed if found suitable, the merchant or his shroff standing by and checking the weight against us.  On some occasions the weight was checked by Belbin, a clerk late in the Company's employ.  On being weighed, the weights are entered in a book (produced), and the coal is passed into the godown.  The cheque for the value is then paid by the manager.  The godown is kept under lock and key, and the keys are delivered at night to myself, or in my absence to the assistant manager.  In the godown, the coal is stored by each merchant as it is brought in.  The coal supplied by different merchants is kept in separate stacks, distinguished by letters, "A, B, C, and D."  When coal is wanted for use, the carbonising fireman takes it from the stack, and passes the quantity over the scales - the quantity taken being entered in the carbonising record.  A record is kept of the quantity of coal used in the works.  It is taken hourly, and balanced every eight hours - giving a daily balance every twenty-four hours.  It is a summarised balance.  The figures on the sheet of paper produced represent the purchases of coal from the accused's hong.  It is made up from his own receipts.

   Mr. MILLER - It is a calculated deficiency account - it gives no account of what has been supplied.  Mr. Yeo was in England, and knows nothing of these transactions.

   Mr. YEO said the books showed the facts, and if the Court wished he could explain how those figures were obtained.  He produced all the receipts, and from his examination of the books, he could prove the accused was paid for the amounts of coal he ought to have delivered.

   Mr.  WAINEWRIGHT said accused admitted that he got the receipts for the quantity of coal that is now charged as a deficiency. (To Mr. Yeo ) - How did you get at the deficiency?

   Mr. YEO - this book (produced) shows it.

   The ASSESSOR - This book was not kept by you.  How did you find out the fact of there being a deficiency on your arrival in Shanghai?

   Mr. YEO - This book is an account of the coal transactions.  I examined the daily account kept by Mr. Holmes, and compared it with the coal in each stack, and found they did not correspond.  My practical experience showed me that there was a deficiency.

   The Assessor and the Magistrate conferred, and the Assessor afterwards said - The Magistrate says the root of all this evil is in the Gas Works.  He cannot say that the accused was not implicated in it, but he believes there are other parties guilty.  It appears to him that the root of the evil is to be found in the Gas Works.

   Me. WAINEWRIGHT - Will you explain to the Magistrate that the man Belbin at times took in the coal, which was afterwards paid for as being full weight, being at the time of delivery deficient.  Accused allowed Belbin to do this, and made it worth his while to do it, because he (accused) got so much coal back for which he had been paid.

   Mr. MILLER (INTERRUPTING) - Belbin has never been criminally charged in the English Court.  His name is now for the first time brought in in connection with that paper.  If the Gas Company have any evidence against him, they ought to have taken him to the English Court.

   The ASSESSOR - We are not considering Belbin's case now.

   Mr. MILLER - No; but the Magistrate says the root of the evil is within the Gas Works.  Why do they not dig it up?

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT - It is not so easy to dig up a root like this all at once.  We shall see about that afterwards.

   Mr. YEO resumed - The godown opens to the retort house.  It is that large building in the central part of the gas Works.

   The MAGISTRATE (through the Assessor) said - There is corruption in this matter, and the head of it is at the Gas Works.  When you take action against those other men who are implicated, I shall be able to deal with the accused.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT =- I would suggest that the Magistrate or yourself (meaning Mr. Miller) should ask the accused how much Belbin owes him, and whether he has not within the last two or three weeks sent Belbin a letter threatening if he (Belbin) did not pay up, he would make a clean breast of the coal business and expose the whole matter.

   The accused in reply to a question, said Belbin owed him several tens of dollars.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT - I believe he owes him $250.

   Mr. MILLER - And a good many more people, too.

   Accused was asked why he did not sue Belbin? - He replied that he was not able to find him lately.

   Mr. MILLER - that is easy enough, I should think; he has been riding up and down the Bubbling Well roads often enough.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT suggested that the accused should be asked if there were not two black men employed in the Gas Works named Henry and Duncan, one of whom, Henry, owed him $25.

   Mr. MILLER protested against such a course of examination, and said he must ask the Assessor to stop it.

   The ASSESSOR said it was the practice in the Mixed Court to examine all and hear all.  Mr. Miller could have no interest in not endeavouring to get at the true facts.

    Accused, questioned by Mr. Wainewright, said the black man Henry owed him $25, and he let him off it at the request of Belbin.

   Accused then made a statement to the Court in Chinese, and the Assessor interpreted that he now said Belbin never made any such request to him.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT - The why did he send the black man, Henry, a receipt for $25?

   Mr. MILLER - Dr. Yates, let me ask for reason.  The Magistrate said at the beginning, that he hoped I would act with reason, let me now ask for it.

   The ASSESSOR - This is reason.  We want, in this Court, to hear all that this man has to say.  He is here before his own authorities, and you do not want to hear what he has to say heard.

   Mr. MILLER - But the Magistrate has said that he could not deal with the accused until the others are taken before the English Court.

   The ASSESSOR - He said no such thing.  He said the root of the evil was in the Gas Works, and if the other parties were before the English Court, he could better deal with this man.

   The accused here made another long statement on Chinese, the gist of which was interpreted to be that if he gave Henry a receipt for $25, he must have received money for it, but that it was not money for coal.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT - We can prove that, through Belbin, they were striving to bribe these two black men to wink at what was going on in the Gas Works.  The money was sent to them to induce them to keep their mouths shut.  To one was sent $10, but he sent it back again; to the other was sent $25, which he kept, but  said he would do nothing for it.  We can bring these two men to prove that it was they who endeavoured to bribe, and I ask the accused these questions just to show if he is speaking the truth.

   The ASSESSOR - I think the man would be standing very much in his own light not to speak the whole truth about it.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT - Would you ask him what is the meaning of the Tls. 73 commission paid to him?  Who paid it?

   The Accused said the merchant who supplied the coal paid it him.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT - Does the Magistrate say he will not go on with this case until we have been in the English Court?

   The Assessor and Magistrate having conferred, the former said it was impossible for the Magistrate to press the matter further now, because the grave responsibility rested on the man who weighed the coal and passed it in as true w eight.  The receipts showed that so much coal was paid for, and if there was  corruption, it lay with the man who weighed the coal into the gas Works.  Let them proceed against that man, and if he was proved guilty in conjunction with the accused, he would punish the accused.  Further he did not see any necessity to keep the accused in custody, but would call upon him to give security to appear when called upon.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT asked the accused who was the man who sold the coal - the merchant?

   The Accused said the man standing behind him was the man for whom he had acted as broker. His name was Tsin-ling-kee.  The man who tallied the coal on its delivery at the Gas Works, was Chun E-sah.

   TSIN LING-KEE was called forward, and on being questioned, said he could not account for the deficiency in the coal supplied.  When he sold 100 tons he delivered 200 tons, and when he sold 150 tons he delivered 150 tons.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT said in two instances the deficiencies were as follows: On November 24th last year, 163 tons were supposed to have been delivered, and were paid for on the 25th.  These were found 36 tons short.  On the other case, 93 tons were ordered on June 6th, and paid for on June 16th, and these were found deficient to the extent of 20 tons 15 hundred weight.

   TSIN LING-KEE now said he weighed in those coals and believed they were all delivered.

   In the course of further conversation it was shown that Tsin went by two names, and that, as a chop of his on his trade receipts, he used a third name.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT asked if it would do any good to produce the men whom they had attempted to bribe?

  The Magistrate, on being asked, replied no, as they could not prove who delivered the coal at the works.  If Belbin would come forward and testify who did weigh and receive it, He (the Magistrate) was quite willing to go on.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT said there could be no doubt the Chinamen knew, if they would only speak the truth.

   The MAGISTRATE, who had been examining the Chinese receipts for the money paid for the coal, and has questioned Tsing Ling-kee, suddenly exclaimed to him, as interpreted - When you speak, you call yourself Ling-kee; then when you  write, you make it Ching-kee; and then you put a chop on your receipt, "Yuen-hang."  That just locks you up.

   Tsing now admitted that it was he himself who stalled the coal delivered at the Gas Works against Belbin.

   The MAGISTRATE declined to proceed further with the case to-day, and ordered Tsing to be taken away to the prison.  He also ordered the original accused to give good security to appear when wanted.


To the Editor of the NORTH-CHINA DAILY NEWS.

   SIR, - I trust you will give to this letter the same publicity as  was given to the report of the case brought by the Shanghai Gas Company against Ping tsoh-tsen.  In that report Mr. Yeo and Mr. Wainewright are made to state that I am implicated in the frauds alleged to have been committed against the Gas Works.

   Give me leave to deny this in the most emphatic manner, and further to state that if M. Yeo or any other person will repeat in your newspaper or in any bother way which will allow of my testing the question in a Court of Law, the accusations he is reported to have brought against me, I will at once take steps to vindicate my character.  In the meantime it will only be ordinary justice to me that the public should suspend their judgment upon the matter, since I have not hitherto had any opportunity of denying the charges brought against me behind my back the other day at the Mixed Court.

   Allow me further to state that, in discharging me from their service, the Gas Company did not dare to bring this charge against me; - this alone ought to show my innocence.

   I am, Sir, &c., E. BELBIN.

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