LAW

HK$1.39b in criminal proceeds frozen; more punished for laundering

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 3:36am
 

The city froze HK$1.39 billion in crime proceeds under court orders last year - the largest in three years - with the government confiscating HK$50 million, the Department of Justice said.

Prosecutors also took more money laundering cases to court - 441 last year compared with 290 in 2011 - leading to the conviction of 166 people. Of these, two mainland offenders saw assets of some HK$273 million frozen by a court order.

The figures were unveiled in an annual report, "Prosecutions Hong Kong 2012", that the department issued yesterday as a review of the prosecution's performance last year.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos also insisted the right to demonstrate was being upheld amid claims by activists that protesters were increasingly being prosecuted.

"Given the large number of demonstrations now taking place, the number of prosecutions has been reserved for the most blatant of cases where people have clearly crossed the line by disregarding and violating the law," Zervos said.

The number of authorised protests increased fivefold between 1997 and last year. Some 31 people were prosecuted for demonstrating last year, the department said. In both 1997 and 2012 the prosecution rate was 0.3 per cent, the data showed.

Zervos said the prosecution figures were low and reflected "due regard and respect to the right to demonstrate".

"Much has … been said about public order events, but a lot of it is exaggerated or inaccurate."

He called the right to peaceful and lawful demonstration vital, but noted a rise in demonstrations in which people displayed "aggressive and sometimes violent behaviour".

Avery Ng Man-yuen, the vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats who was acquitted of causing a public nuisance after tossing a T-shirt at president Hu Jintao's convoy during a visit last year, accused Zervos of "playing magic tricks with numbers".

"Zervos said the prosecution figures [on demonstrations] were low, but it appears there is a growing trend in political prosecution, particularly targeting party members and politicians.

"Some arrests have been delayed for more than half a year since demonstrations [have taken place], where no police officers had warned the arrestees at the scene."

Icarus Wong Ho-yin of the Civil Human Rights Front said the police had tended in recent years to prosecute protesters under the Public Order Ordinance. "The ordinance is written in a very general way and demonstrators could be prosecuted easily even if they have done nothing violent," Wong said.

On money laundering cases, prosecutors froze HK$286 million in proceeds of cross-border offences controlled by three fugitives from Egypt, Spain and Turkey, the report said.

 

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