A pack of lies: Judge slams hotel worker over explanation that she tricked elderly woman because she was on an undercover mission

Accused found guilty of conspiracy to launder money after alleging that she was working for the mainland authorities and she posed as an anti-graft officer

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 August, 2016, 11:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 August, 2016, 11:01am

A hotel housekeeper who claimed she was collecting payments from an elderly woman because she was sent on an undercover mission by mainland authorities was slammed by a judge on Friday for telling a pack of lies.

The District Court case centred on a telephone scam that tricked Wong On-cheuk, 82, into paying HK$200,000 when Tsang Hin-tai visited her Happy Valley flat posing as an Independent Commission Against Corruption officer with a fake police warrant card on July 24 last year.

The money was wired to mainland China through an exchange shop on the same day, with Tsang keeping HK$5,000 as her share.

The 30-year-old was found guilty after trial on two counts of conspiracy to launder money and another of possessing false instruments.

Judge Stanley Chan Kwong-chi heard that Wong was contacted by people claiming to be from Beijing’s liaison office, who said she was being investigated over a multinational case as more than HK$2 million had purportedly been transferred to her bank accounts.

Wong was instructed to prove her innocence by paying the graft busters HK$200,000 on July 24.

Police stepped in when her nephew grew suspicious after she was asked to pay another HK$150,000.

Tsang was arrested on her second visit to Wong’s flat on July 29.

She told police officers: “I came up to collect the money because I’m working for my country.”

She later explained that the People’s Procuratorate began sending her on undercover missions as she was told there were many people like her in Hong Kong who needed to deliver documents to the mainland to facilitate an investigation into a money laundering scheme.

It appears that Tsang herself might have been the victim of a phone scam. She claimed her troubles began on May 26 when delivery company S. F. Express called to inform her that her package of 28 fake credit cards could not be delivered from Fujian to Macau and said her personal details had been stolen.

Her call was then purportedly directed to Fujian authorities, who further informed her that she had laundered more than HK$2.5 million, leaving some victims so traumatised that they committed suicide.

Scared but helpless – as she was repeatedly warned not to tell her husband or he would also be investigated – she complied with instructions to wire more than HK$920,000 to the mainland.

She also followed instructions to keep in touch with “mainland authorities”, which included taking Skype calls and reporting her whereabouts twice a day.

Tsang said she believed she was talking to a real mainland officer because his profile picture included a national emblem.

So when a Hong Kong police officer twice called to ask if she had fallen prey to a telephone scam, Tsang said no and quickly hung up before she called her mainland contact.

She also took pictures of police warnings against telephone scams to show the “mainland authorities”, but was reassured she would be alright because the “mainland officer” said they were the ones who had authorised Hong Kong police to make the advertisements.

The judge, however, questioned how she could recall the events in such great detail despite her fear.

He also wondered why Tsang would repeatedly go on unpaid “missions” using a crudely made warrant card – which she admitted was a fake – to prove her identity as an undercover agent.

“The defendant was telling a pack of lies,” Chan said. “The only irresistible conclusion was that she conspired to launder money.”

She will be sentenced on September 7, pending receipt of a report into her psychological state.