Fugitive businessman who fled to mainland after laundering HK$240m faces 7 years' jail

Businessman who fled city for the mainland in July convicted in absentia for laundering more than HK$240m through 11 bank accounts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 4:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 12:07pm

A businessman who absconded to the mainland in July was sentenced to seven years in prison yesterday for laundering more than HK$240 million.

Tsoi Chit-tsang, 45, was believed to be "the central figure" in a complex web of transactions that amounted to more than HK$983 million and involved four of his relatives, Judge Kevin Browne said.

Tsoi's elder sister and brother-in-law had already pleaded guilty and were both jailed for five years and four months in August for laundering more than HK$650 million. His mother and wife were not prosecuted further.

He was convicted in absentia of two counts of money laundering in the District Court yesterday. In passing sentence, Browne said Tsoi himself had laundered HK$209.4 million and US$4.1 million through 11 bank accounts held either in his name or that of a company under his control.

The defendant "was aware of the source of the funds … and it involved substantial … and detailed management and careful monitoring", Browne said.

The court heard earlier that the scheme was carried out over five years until 2009, with money transferred into and out of 28 accounts in seven banks, including Bank of China, Nanyang Commercial Bank and DBS.

On July 21, five days after the trial opened, Tsoi failed to show up in court and was later said to have fled to the mainland.

Prosecutors relied on the evidence of witnesses, including a forensic accounting expert, an accountant and a police officer.

Browne said he was satisfied with the case that Tsoi dealt with ill-gotten gains "through complex layers of financial transactions … including multiple deposits to different accounts on the same day in different [banks'] branches … and subscriptions to IPOs and securities".

The deposits did not match the defendants' reported incomes during the period of the offences, and the origin of many of the deposits could not be traced, the court heard earlier.

Tsoi's income from April 2008 to March 2009 was HK$360,000, a return filed by his employer showed.

In addition to the bank deposits, police found HK$1.63 million and 93,800 yuan (HK$119,000) in the Whampoa Garden home of the now incarcerated couple, Wong On-hung, 45, and Tsoi Suet-ching, 46.

Although the younger Tsoi's charges involved a smaller amount of money, an eight-year jail term was appropriate given his central role in the scheme, Browne concluded.

That sentence was reduced to seven years as that was the maximum allowed in the District Court, the judge said.

In jailing the couple on August 16, Browne acted on a prosecution request and left on file other charges against Tsoi's 69-year-old mother Ngai Lan-fa and wife Shi Wenni, 38. He also allowed a prosecutors' application to confiscate a total of HK$9.33 million from the couple.

The court will hear on December 2 whether to confiscate Tsoi's wealth, which was not disclosed.