Curiosity convicts the customs clerk

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 4:25am

A former customs clerk has been convicted of conducting unauthorised searches on a database that a government unit maintains to keep track of suspicious financial transactions.

Wong Yuk-ling, 55, who worked as a confidential assistant at the government's Joint Financial Intelligence Unit, was found guilty of 11 counts of obtaining access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent, in Eastern Court yesterday. Her sentencing was scheduled for December 4.

Between March 2008 and December 2010, Wong illegally logged onto the system to look for personal information related to herself and her relatives.

The unit, jointly run by the police and Customs and Excise Department, is responsible for receiving, analysing and storing suspicious transactions reports, and sending them to the appropriate investigation units.

Wong told police in a videotaped interview she conducted the searches "out of curiosity".

She admitted to typing in the identity card numbers of herself, her ex-husband, her siblings and the name of her sister-in-law.

The search results tempted her to read further, Wong said.

The unauthorised searches were discovered when the system underwent security checks.

Wong's supervisor, a customs inspector, previously testified in court Wong was not permitted to conduct searches on the system during that period of time.

Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing said he believed Wong knew "she was prohibited from accessing the computer documents", and her acts showed a marked degree of repetition.

"The court disagrees that the defendant did not obtain any gain," To said. "Her intention was clearly dishonest."

He said court proceedings had made public the confidential information of her relatives - which the court would consider as an aggravating factor.

Wong joined the government in 1978 as a typist and rose to the position of confidential assistant, performing more specialised clerical work, in 1997. She was transferred to the unit in 2006.

The defence submitted a psychiatric report saying Wong had suffered from anxiety.

The law allows for a maximum of five years in jail for each count of the offence.