Customs clerk sentenced to 140 hours of community service

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 1:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 1:16pm

A former customs clerk was sentenced on Tuesday to perform 140 hours of community service for conducting unauthorised searches on a database used to track suspicious financial transactions.

Wong Yuk-ling, 56, who worked as a confidential assistant at the government’s Joint Financial Intelligence Unit, struggled to hold back tears as she heard the sentence in Eastern Court.

She was found guilty on 11 counts of obtaining access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent.

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

Between March 2008 and December 2010, Wong illegally logged onto the computer system to look for personal information about herself and her relatives “out of curiosity”, the court had heard.

In sentencing, Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing said Hong Kong had an obligation to fight money laundering.

“[But Wong’s behaviour] could hamper Hong Kong’s ability to fulfil this obligation, and there is potential to bring a bad name to Hong Kong,” he said.

Wong earlier admitted to typing in the identity card numbers of herself, her ex-husband, her siblings and the name of her sister-on-law. Her unauthorised searches were later discovered during security checks on the system.

Wong’s counsel, Graham Harris SC, pleaded for a non-custodial sentence, in mitigation, saying that Wong was receiving psychological counselling and that her son was involved in a different legal dispute and had left her home.

Wong was facing an internal disciplinary hearing from the department and could lose a substantial amount of her pension, he said.

The magistrate noted that Wong was not in good health and she did not gain financially from the searches.

He sentenced her to 140 hours of community service for each offence, to be served concurrently, to reflect the severity of the offence and the court’s disapproval of her behaviour.