A 36-year-old jobless local man who offered to sell his government-issued consumption subsidy smartcard through a social media chat group, was arrested on Wednesday, the Judiciary Police (PJ) said in a statement on Thursday.
The Judiciary Police were tipped off by a resident on Wednesday that a man was offering to sell his consumption subsidy smartcard worth 3,000 patacas for 1,500 patacas on a social media platform. Upon investigation, the police arrested the suspect, surnamed Lou, in the city centre at noon on Wednesday before he could sell the card. Lou confessed offering to sell the card at half its value as he was in urgent need of cash, according to the PJ statement.
The statement added that the Economic Services Bureau (DSE) requested a criminal investigation into the case. The police warned the public that any card that was illegally sold or exchanged for cash will be automatically terminated and the culprit will have to refund the subsidy amount that was used illegally, apart from facing the possibility of criminal charges.
Lou was transferred to the Public Prosecution Office (MP) on Thursday, facing a fraud charge, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, the Economic Services Bureau said in a separate statement that it was “highly concerned” about the case. The bureau noted that the suspect had offered to sell the card in a WeChat group.
The DSE statement said that the bureau was cooperating with the Judiciary Police in investigating the case. The statement underlined that it is illegal to sell the consumption subsidy smartcards, or to exchange them for cash.
The bureau urged residents not to jeopardise the original intention of the government’s consumption subsidy programme, which is to boost the local economy and reduce locals’ living expenses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was the first time that the police caught a resident offering to sell the card.
The government started issuing the cards to permanent and non-permanent residents last month. On May 1, when residents could start using the cards, 530,000 of the cards had been collected by their holders.
According to previous announcements by the government, the cards are legally transferable as they do not indicate the holder’s name. However, it is illegal to sell them, or exchange them for cash. They must only be used to buy goods or services. The government has said that it will inject another 5,000 patacas into the smartcards later this year.