'No evidence' HK$230m was dirty money

Lawyers for pair who laundered cash say it wasn't the proceeds of crime

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 4:30am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 4:49am

Lawyers for two people convicted of laundering a total of HK$230 million insisted in court yesterday that there was no evidence the money was the proceeds of crime.

The arguments came during a mitigation session before sentencing of solicitor Wu Wing-kit, 57, and Ye Fang, 43, wife of a former director of listed company Natural Dairy Holdings.

"In the world of possibility, it is possible" that the money came from crime, said senior counsel Andrew Bruce, for Wu. But he added there had been no such evidence in court to support the possibility.

Wong Man-kit SC made a similar assertion on behalf of Ye.

The pair, who had pleaded not guilty, were convicted on Monday - Wu of laundering HK$68.95 million and Ye of laundering HK$230 million, including the funds from Wu.

Yesterday, the public seating was packed with supporters of the pair including Ye's husband, Chen Keen, and Wu's wife, who burst into tears halfway through the mitigation.

The court previously heard that between December 2009 and February 2010, Natural Dairy had raised HK$790 million to acquire 22 dairy farms in New Zealand. It was alleged that of the HK$790 million, HK$693 million was remitted to a lawyer representing Natural Dairy.

Of that amount, NZ$51.6 million (HK$334 million) was paid to the company that was to sell the farms.

A representative of that company then transferred HK$73.3 million back to a Natural Dairy representative, who wrote a cheque for HK$68.95 million to Wu's law firm, Fred Kan & Co. The money was then deposited into Ye's account by Wu. Ye allegedly dealt with a further HK$161 million, from March 2010 to October 2011.

Bruce also told the court that Wu's offence was "only a one-off payment, and that's it". Wu did not make a personal gain, and was only doing his long-time customer a favour. Bruce said Wu got "a tsunami" of mitigating letters - including one from Law Reform Commission secretary Stephen Wong Kai-yi, who described him as a "good lawyer who has to face consequences".

Wong Man-kit said Ye simply did not inquire enough about the source of the money and had acted under the influence of those who gave it to her.

Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man said Wu should have known his duty well as he was a solicitor, adding that there was no evidence showing Ye had been given instructions to act the way she did.

The pair will be sentenced on September 19.