12 December 2013
Six Hong Kong residents (including the licensee of an employment agency), who had conspired to use false instruments to apply for foreign domestic helper (FDH) working visas, have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to make false representation to an immigration officer. Five of them were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from three to 15 months today (December 12) at the District Court. A total of 19 Filipinos and one Indonesian involved in the case had been convicted earlier for the offence of making false representation to an immigration officer at the Magistrates' Courts.
The mastermind was a 26-year-old Hong Kong resident who was the licensee of the employment agency. In June 2012, during the investigation of a suspected false FDH contract case handled by the aforesaid employment agency, the Immigration Department detected that the employer's proof of salary was a false instrument. After months of in-depth investigation and intelligence analysis, a syndicate was identified as having arranged for Filipinos and an Indonesian to work in Hong Kong illegally through the use of false FDH contracts. In October 2012, the Immigration Department triggered enforcement action. A total of 35 persons, including the mastermind, 13 other Hong Kong residents and 20 Filipinos and one Indonesian who had applied for the FDH visas using false contracts, were apprehended. In addition, computers, mobile phones, SIM cards and a considerable number of false instruments which included proof of salary and residence were seized.
During the investigation, investigators discovered that the mastermind solicited Hong Kong residents to act as bogus employers for monetary return and produced false proof of salary and residence for use when applying for FDH working visas. Some of the bogus employers would introduce other Hong Kong residents to the mastermind to act as bogus employers for further monetary return. These Hong Kong residents did not have an actual employment relationship with the FDH employed by them.
Further investigation revealed that the sixth defendant registered a company under the instruction of the mastermind and the registered address of the company was used as the correspondence address in four applications. Investigators believed that the mastermind was trying to avoid exposure of the illicit activities by using different correspondence addresses.
After investigation, the mastermind and six other Hong Kong residents were prosecuted. The mastermind was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment for the offence of conspiracy to defraud and 15 months' imprisonment for the offence of conspiracy to make false representation to an immigration officer. Both sentences will run concurrently. Four other Hong Kong residents were sentenced to a total of three to eight months' imprisonment for the offences of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to make false representation to an immigration officer. The case of one Hong Kong resident who had pleaded guilty was adjourned to December 30 for sentencing. As for the remaining Hong Kong resident, the prosecution offered no evidence to his case. Regarding the bogus FDHs arrested, 20 of them were prosecuted and convicted of making false representation to an immigration officer at the Magistrates' Courts earlier and seven of them have already been sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 10 to 14 months.
Investigation of the other suspects is continuing.
"It is an offence to make false representation to an immigration officer. Offenders are liable to prosecution and to a maximum fine of $150,000 and imprisonment for 14 years. Furthermore, anyone who commits the offence of conspiracy to defraud is liable to prosecution and, upon conviction, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 14 years," an Immigration Department spokesman said.
The spokesman also stressed that FDHs should only take up employment as a domestic helper as approved by the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for two years. Aiders and abettors are also liable to prosecution.