Public housing tenant guilty of laundering HK$6.7b in four years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 5:44am

A public housing tenant was yesterday convicted in the Court of First Instance of laundering HK$6.7 billion through nine Hong Kong banks in four years.

The court heard yesterday that police became aware of 61-year-old Lam Mei-ling's money-laundering scheme when investigating a fraud complaint filed in 2008 by a citizen of the Netherlands, involving HK$300,000.

The case was shelved on legal advice when the complainant died later that year, but prosecutor Sabrina See said preliminary investigations had pointed to two bank accounts that later led police to uncover an extensive money-laundering scheme.

Lam was found guilty of dealing with property known or believed to represent the proceeds of an indictable offence. She faces a jail term of up to 14 years and a fine of up to HK$5 million when she returns for sentencing today.

After migrating to Hong Kong from the mainland in 1989, Lam on average laundered HK$155 million every month between 2002 and 2005.

Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai said he was unconvinced by Lam's account that she had received only occasional monthly payments of HK$4,500 for laundering the money.

See said Lam was arrested in 2008 after two of her bank accounts were subject to investigation over the fraud complaint. The police's attention had been drawn to suspicious activities over at least 12 bank accounts in Lam's name, and after four years of further inquiries, they found sufficient evidence to press charges.

The court earlier heard that Lam made more than 17,000 bank transfers over bank counters to funnel the funds to other Hong Kong accounts.

Each time, she would receive a phone call from a mainland woman, whom Lam knew from her home village in Dongguan , telling her money had been deposited into Lam's account and to which accounts she should divert the money. The deposits were made by cheque.

The accounts were shut down by the banks in 2005.

Lam laundered amounts ranging from HK$2 billion through Chiyu Bank to HK$124 million through National Commercial Bank. The larger sums include HK$1.8 billion transferred through Hua Chiao Commercial Bank and HK$1.6 billion through Hang Seng Bank. The other banks were Dao Heng Bank, First Commercial Bank, Hua Nan Bank, Standard Chartered and Bank of East Asia.