Three Hong Kong residents jailed for conspiracy to defraud and money laundering

18 Jun 2015

The Immigration Department (ImmD) smashed a forgery-cum-illegal worker syndicate. The mastermind, a Hong Kong resident, had earlier pleaded guilty to the offence of conspiracy to defraud, while two other Hong Kong residents pleaded guilty to the offence of money laundering. They were convicted at District Court and were imprisoned today (June 18).

The 64-year-old mastermind pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced today to 23 months' imprisonment. The other two Hong Kong residents, who had made their bank accounts available to the syndicate to receive salary payments for illegal workers, were charged with "conspiracy to deal with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence". One of them was sentenced to 12 months' while the other was sentenced to six months and two weeks' imprisonment.

The ImmD received a report from a Mandatory Provident Fund Trustee Company indicating that some clients were suspected of furnishing false Hong Kong Identity Card (HKIC) particulars. Subsequently, an operation codenamed "Ringcracker" was conducted in August 2013, which successfully neutralised a forgery syndicate providing a one-stop service to illegal workers. The syndicate recruited Mainlanders seeking illegal employment in Hong Kong and provided them with forged HKICs to conceal their true identities. The syndicate would also arrange jobs for them as well as room and board, while at the same time they would withhold part of the illegal workers' remuneration for their own profit.

Under the laws of Hong Kong, anyone who commits the offence of conspiracy to defraud is liable to prosecution and, upon conviction, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 14 years. In addition, knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe any property in whole or in part, directly or indirectly represents any proceeds of an indictable offence, and deals with that property shall be liable to money laundering. The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of $5 million and imprisonment for 14 years.

Moreover, anyone who uses or possesses a forged HKIC commits an offence. Offenders are liable to prosecution and, upon conviction, a maximum penalty of a fine of $100,000 and 10 years' imprisonment. Visitors are also not allowed to take up employment, whether paid or unpaid, without the prior permission of the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to prosecution and, upon conviction, to a maximum fine of $50,000 and two years' jail. In addition, the ImmD appeals to employers not to employ illegal workers, warning that it is an offence to employ people who are not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty is a fine of $350,000 and imprisonment for three years. It is also an offence if an employer fails to inspect the job seeker's identity card or, if the job seeker does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card, his or her valid travel document. The maximum penalty for failing to do so is a fine of $150,000 and imprisonment for one year. If employers have doubts about the job seeker's employability, they should make enquiries through the immigration enquiry telephone hotline 2824 1551.