Hong Kong District Court jails Indonesian domestic helper over money-laundering operation
Worker allowed another Indonesian to use a bank account she set up to channel more than HK$1 million from a high-interest loan scheme
A domestic helper who told a court that money laundering was to wash money with water was jailed for 30 months on Tuesday over her pivotal role in a loan scheme with high interest rates targeting grass-roots borrowers.
Although Siti Rianah, 30, was only involved in letting her friend Suryati use her bank account for the illicit banking activities, District Court judge Sham Siu-man said without her, the circuit would not have been complete.
The court heard earlier that most loans involved small amounts totalling hundreds to thousands of dollars.
But the judge noted the scheme specifically targeted the poor. “The level of the scheme is appalling,” he said.
The helper set up and let others use her Hang Seng Bank account to deposit more than HK$1 million from illicit loans with an interest rate of 1,000 per cent in 2012. The highest legal interest rate in Hong Kong is 60 per cent.
She was found guilty last week after she pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money.
Her co-accused Muniroh, whose Bank of China account was also given to Suryati for the laundering of more than HK$570,000 , was jailed for 20 months – a reduction of 10 months because of her guilty plea.
Suryati, who had already been jailed for two years on other charges, was given a 20-month sentence. She collapsed in court after she became emotional.
The court heard earlier that Siti met Suryati in Indonesia when they took part in a training course together before she came to Hong Kong in 2005.
They became good friends when they were reunited in the city in 2008, four years before Suryati asked Siti to set up the account, which at one point contained HK$1.23 million.
The helper said she believed Suryati when she said she wanted to set up a savings account.
During the trial, she told the judge that money laundering was “like doing laundry, that is to wash dollar notes with water.”
Sham accepted that both Siti and Muniroh might not be totally sure that their accounts would be exploited for high interest rate loan activities.
The judge also said Suryati acted as the “middle person” who did all the talking. He also said other people were involved in the scheme.
In mitigation earlier, the court heard that Suryati was persuaded by a boyfriend she treated like her husband. But Sham refused to accept the explanation, saying Suryati was not even able to recall the full name of the boyfriend.