Two of three Israelis accused of laundering 342 gold bars and four diamonds valued at more than HK$150 million pleaded guilty in the District Court yesterday.
Yoav Hen and Daniel Fadlon, both aged 28, each pleaded guilty to one count of dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence.
Hen was co-accused with 26-year-old Omer Gavish, who pleaded not guilty to laundering 342 1kg gold bars in May last year. Fadlon was accused of laundering the gold bars plus the four diamonds.
Hen had visited Hong Kong five times in two months before he arrived on April 27 last year, during which time he was arrested, the court heard.
Fadlon was on his 12th visit when he was arrested.
In the morning of May 2, Hen was seen in closed-circuit television images buying steel-cutting equipment before he returned to a village house in Yuen Long.
A few hours later, he loaded a number of heavy bags into a taxi headed for Tsim Sha Tsui.
In the afternoon he and another unidentified man sold a total of 85 gold bars to Metalor Technologies, a precious metal processing company in Kwai Chung.
A locksmith named Wong Ka-nam was called to another village house in Sheung Shui in the evening and asked to "undo a lock", the prosecutor Richard Turnbull said.
Wong observed a "strong smell of iron" from the house.
That night, Hen was seen on closed-circuit television, together with two unidentified foreign men, pulling bags into Chung King Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Hen sold 32 gold bars to Metalor the next day.
A day later, Fadlon was seen leaving Chung King Mansions and then selling 64 gold bars to Metalor.
All three were arrested on May 7 last year.
In the Chung King Mansions unit where Fadlon and Gavish were arrested, police found 161 gold bars, the court heard.
A wallet containing four diamonds, each of five carats with a total value estimated at HK$11.6 million, was also seized.
Turnbull said the 342 gold bars were valued at about HK$139 million.
Hen had denied knowledge of the gold bars in a previous interview with the police, while he admitted having been hired in Israel to come to Hong Kong to stay in a village house to ensure there was no theft from the premises, Turnbull said.
Gavish's trial is due to start on Monday before Judge Anthony Kwok Kai-on.
The two men who have already pleaded guilty will have their mitigation submissions heard after the trial.