HK gets tough on crime

Criminal sentences in Hong Kong often seem curiously inconsistent.

A few days ago, the Standard reported a court case about a male Lan Kwai Fong bar employee being convicted of raping a drunk woman he had taken from the night-club district to a Wanchai motel. The judge knocked a few months off a five-year sentence in recognition of the guy’s ‘voluntary work record’. The story does not answer a lot of questions. If we adopt the slut-walk, reclaim-the-night, no-means-no principle, we assume that there were or can be no mitigating factors allowing for alcohol, hormones, misunderstandings, mixed messages or things starting off OK but getting out of hand. Not everyone sees this as realistic. But if we do, this is a straight case of predatory maniac attacking totally helpless and vulnerable victim. And the sentence looks way too low.

Then, today, we get the Solar System’s biggest and most horrifying money-laundering shock-horror scandal for the last 100,000 years. Teenage Mainlander school dropout delivery guy comes to the Big Lychee and launders around HK$50 million a day for a couple of years through one account in one of the Bank of China group’s lesser-known members, the Chiyu Banking Corp. (It specializes in serving the Fujianese community, and its name is popular among Internet scammers.) The guy gets over 10 years in prison, and the judge says she should have been allowed to give him more. Maybe he is a thoroughly unpleasant scumbag – we have no idea. But the people whose HK$13 billion were laundered are nowhere to be seen. And Chiyu Banking Corp, which must have picked up a few bucks in handling charges, swears that it complies with all the rules, and so far there is no sign of the regulators or police doubting them.

After my father died a few years ago, I received a cheque containing my modest share of his estate. If I recall, it worked out at some HK$300,000. It came with a copy of the will and some lawyers’ letters, but that wasn’t enough for HSBC. After some form-filling, they demanded proof that my father was genuinely no more. I was about to trouble grieving relatives for a copy of the death certificate, when someone emailed me a pdf of an obituary in a respectable publication praising his achievements in one of the world’s less prominent disciplines. After showing it to his higher-ups, the HSBC Premium person let me deposit the bequest. It took a few weeks, all told.

I should have gone to Chiyu Banking Corp, who no doubt would have understood. And the Mainland dropout delivery guy should perhaps have been a bar-tending rapist. Meanwhile, all those other obscure banks that line our streets seem invariably busy. Indeed, people from the Mainland and elsewhere are buying local apartments every day with suitcases bursting with millions of dollars in cash. And Hong Kong preserves its ‘reputation as a financial centre of integrity’.

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13 Responses to HK gets tough on crime

  1. Bela Barclay says:

    The rapist you mention was an intellectually challenged Nepali with a dumb lawyer too dim to plead diminished responsibility. The judge saw the facts and lowered the sentence. Judges frequently have to compensate for bad barristers in Hong Kong. To know all is well..to know all.

    They have never had a case of triad money laundering in the last quarter of a century. In Hong Kong, they call such activities”good business”.

    If you prosecute foreigners, you launder the local population.

    Have you spotted the money launderers of Central yet, stuffing the cash machines with wads of notes?

    PS: I’m never trying to be funny. It just comes out that way sometimes. Honest.

  2. arm bears says:

    As with so many post-handover stories in what remains of HK’s “free” press, this one poses more questions than it answers.

    It’s not a surprise that the HK gov doesn’t have the stones to prosecute a branch of the BOC – they don’t have the stones to prosecute even the lowest-level parking-extertion-triads – but, really, is there no info about who $13 billion might have belonged to, or what crime it might have been the proceeds of? You can move $13b through a bank with absolutely no records? A few years ago, yes; these days, I don’t think so.

  3. Stephen says:

    Which brings us to the ‘Trial of the Century’ IF the former CS Raffy Hui and those wacky Kwok brothers are found guilty of their alleged crimes what sort of sentence can we expect ?

    Would it be commensurate with the seniority in Government of the alleged person(s) involved ?

    Would it be commensurate with the vast sums (from the public purse) required to prosecute the case ?

    Or – fine chaps, stalwarts and pillars of the local community have any bearing ?

    Of course they could be found not guilty. We’ll see.

  4. Richard says:

    Also, whatever you do, under no circumstances *ever* whistle within hearing distance of a cop…

  5. Money Exchanger says:

    The mainlanders don’t even have to carry in suitcases of RMB (and by the way , it takes a lot if suitcases to carry enough RMB to buy a HK$25 M flat . RMB 2 Million just about fills a small carry-on size suitcase, so RMB20 Million would be the equivalent of a couple of sea-travel – sized trunks, and together they would weigh over 220 kg = 484 lb . (RMB10K weighs 113 grams)

    But they don’t even need to carry in RMB. All they need to do is to go to licensed HK money changer , get the number of the money -changer’s PRC bank account and deposit the RMB there . Then 30 minutes later they can pick up the HK$ at the pre- agreed exchange rate.
    I once asked my bank manger if this was legal ( given that most reputable banks in HK only allow one to exchange a few thousand HK$ to RMB, or vice versa, per day ). He hummed, hah-ed and winked and finally said ” no comment, but if you trust the money-changer not to go bankrupt for the 30 minutes while your cash in limbo, it’s a lot faster and more efficient than using a bank and you get a better exchange rate.

    Welcome to HK – money laundering capital of Asia ( except for Singapore and all the other places where laundering is unofficially legal … oops sorry “officially illegal” )

    At least there’s some progress. I bought RMB16K the other day from a reputable money exchanger and had to show my ID card because there’s a new rule that for any exchange at a money changer over HK$8K one must now give an ID and phone number

  6. Property Developer says:

    So “some” of the money originated from the mainland? Say 5 to 10,000 million. What about the export controls on the yuan?

  7. pcatbar says:

    Hemlock not taken his medication today or just low blood sugar me thinks. 5 years for a ‘date rape’ where the victim accompanied the offender to a WC ‘hotel’ is hardly lenient. Without more facts this suggests a miscarriage of justice to have convicted at all! Whereas laundering squillions is serious white collar crime and the fact the bank turned a blind eye while reprehensible is an entirely separate matter possibly worthy of sanction but no reason to mitigate the man’s own liability!

  8. The Regulator says:

    Money Exchanger’s money exchanger if operating in HK, is in breach of the Anti-Money Laundering Ordinance which, for any money exchange over HKD8,000, requires proof of ID, address and source of funds being swapped.

    Pre-AMLO, there were about 11,000 money changers on the Police Register. The AMLO regulator, the Customs & Excise Department, whittled that down 90%. The RMB exchange trade has mostly gone even further underground that pre-AMLO.

  9. Money Exchanger says:

    @ The Regulator

    I take you for your word re 90% of money changers having closed down post AMLO. Assuming they existed and they they operated in shady upstairs rooms I have never once dealt with them – in fact I never even knew where one such existed (Scouts’ Honor !)

    In what I wrote I’m was talking about money changers who pre- AMLO always operated openly in major streets on ground floor level, advertising the current RMB / HK$ rates and in full view of the Police walking around 24/7 ; and now post- AMLO they still operate in exactly the same premises and in the same way. So I assume they are all licensed : were so then and are so now.

    ( Please note that I wrote that I DID have to give my ID and mobile number, but NOT my address, NOR the source of my funds ……. it was in fact money I had just withdrawn from HSBC)

    The current exchange rate is 800/ 804 last time I checked.

  10. Sherlock Wong says:

    @Bela. You are mistaken about Triad money laundering cases. The cops and ICAC have had good results with money laundering cases. In any case, most sensible Triads have now moved to Macau or onto the Mainland, where things are more flexible and the takings are better.

    http://www.thestandard.com.hk/breaking_news_detail.asp?id=22666

    http://www.news.gov.hk/en/categories/law_order/html/2013/01/20130115_195419.shtml

  11. Phileas Fogg says:

    No mention of the Emperor group!

  12. Joe Blow says:

    Do you have info re Emperor, Phileas ?

  13. Phileas Fogg says:

    This may give you some hints…funny no one mentions the Elephant In The Room…

    Ups and downs of the Emperor

    MICHAEL WONG

    Sunday, May 28, 1995

    The life and times of Emperor Group chairman Albert Yeung Sau-shing is full of ups and downs, writes Michael Wong

    A LBERT Yeung, the multimillionaire businessman who was acquitted of criminal intimidation and false imprisonment in last week’s “amnesia” case, is no stranger to controversy.

    Yeung, 51, head of the Emperor Group, was arrested in December 1994 by the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB).

    He was charged with allegedly keeping former employee Lam Yih-jiun against his will at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on the evening of 9 December and in the group’s Alexander House office in Central later that night.

    But the case took a dramatic turn at Western Magistrates Court last week.

    Five witnesses, including Mr Lam, refused to give evidence and said they could not recall what had happened.

    Magistrate Paul Kelly acquitted Yeung but said he “cannot, with the same assurance, declare justice has been done”.

    Justice

    The acquittal adds another chapter to a life of ups and downs for Yeung.

    The father of three started making a name for himself in the 1960s and 1970s in a watch business which was started in 1942 by his family, originally from Chiu Chow, China.

    In 1962, Yeung’s company, Emperor Watch and Jewellery Company (now Emperor International Holdings), started to invest in property and real estate.

    In 1978, Emperor bought a Singapore company trading in foreign exchange and bullion and entered the Hong Kong market the next year.

    The trading service expanded into commercial and residential property.

    Yeung’s life entered a new stage as the 1980s began when he remarried, years after the end of his first marriage.

    He was also involved in a court case in which he was sent to prison. It left him fighting to save his crumbling business after his release.

    In 1979, Yeung was arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

    He was charged with inciting Wai Kin-bong, general manager of the newspaper Tin Tin Daily News, not to testify against jockey Tony Cruz and his brother.

    The Cruz brothers were charged with assaulting Mr Wai. Both were convicted and each received a sentence of six months suspended for one year.

    In 1980, Yeung was given a two-month prison term, also suspended for one year.

    In April 1981, Yeung appealed but failed. In the summer of 1981, a Court of Appeal judge ruled in favour of the Attorney-General, who said the sentence was too lenient.

    Yeung was then immediately sentenced to nine months in prison.

    When he returned to his business in 1982, Yeung found his investments out of control.

    His company owed in excess of $320 million.

    To save himself from bankruptcy, Yeung had to sign an agreement with the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp (HSBC) to become an employee there at a salary of $20,000 a month, while HSBC took over his business.

    Within three years, he had paid all the money back and once again gained control of his business, although his criminal conviction restricted which positions he was able to hold.

    In 1986 Yeung was charged with bookmaking, to which he pleaded not guilty.

    Police alleged Yeung and two others had been operating a bookmaking syndicate at a Broadcast Drive apartment with multiline telephone equipment, calculators and a television.

    Yeung was found guilty of the charge and fined $50,000.

    In 1990, the Emperor Group bought stocks from another group, Parisco International (Holdings), in order to gain entrance to the stock market again.

    Because of his criminal record, Yeung was not allowed to chair the group’s subsidiary company.

    Changed

    The move succeeded and gave the group a listing on the Stock Exchange in 1990.

    The group’s name later changed to Emperor Investments.

    Emperor International Holdings now controls Emperor (China Concept) Investments, Hong Kong Daily News Holdings and Righteous (Holdings).

    Yeung’s brother and sister have been among those chairing the three companies that are listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Yeung has continued to be the chairman of the group.

    Yeung was also the victim of a well-publicised kidnap attempt.

    In April 1989, three armed men tried to kidnap Yeung from outside his office in Central.

    His driver “Ah Sing” alerted two patrolling police officers by running the vehicle up on the pavement.

    Yeung was unhurt and police later caught the kidnappers, who served jail terms.

    The famous tycoon is a good friend of some of the most respected and well-known people in Hong Kong.

    Among them are film star Jackie Chan, with whom the Emperor Group has teamed up along with other actors and singers to build an entertainment complex in Shanghai.

    The late tycoon Sir Tang Shiu-kin was also a good friend of Yeung’s and last year Yeung paid $13 million at an auction to buy Sir Shiu-kin’s number “9” licence plate.

    Yeung’s daughter is married to director-actor Alfred Cheung Kin-ting.

    All rights reserved.

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