Four associates of bookmaking ex-sergeant in HK police found guilty of laundering more than $12.8m from illegal horse and football betting

31-Jul-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Four men who lent their bank accounts to a former Hong Kong police sergeant to channel more than HK$100 million (US$12.8 million) from illegal horse and football betting were on Monday found guilty of money laundering.

Their trial came after the retired sergeant, So Wing-yiu, 71, pleaded guilty in April to one count of bookmaking and seven counts of dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence.

So’s younger brother So Wing-wah, 66, was found guilty of two counts of money laundering. His nephew So Kwok-chung, 47, brother-in-law Lo Chi-keung, 60, and former subordinate Tsang Kwok-wai, 62, were each found guilty of one count of money laundering.

All five men will be sentenced on August 29, pending their background reports and further mitigation.

Imprisonment is inevitable

Deputy District Judge Newman Wong

Deputy District Judge Newman Wong Hing-wai said: “Imprisonment is inevitable.”

None of the defendants visibly reacted to the news that they had been convicted of a crime that at this level of court is punishable by seven years in prison.

But their family members, who took up most of the public gallery, cried and rushed to the dock as soon as the judge left the courtroom.

The District Court heard the former sergeant’s four co-defendants had previously testified to lending their accounts upon his request, without knowing he would be use them for dirty money. So Wing-wah, for instance, said he trusted his elder brother because he knew him as a just policeman and a pious family man.

That was why the sibling agreed to share his HSBC account and to open another one at the Bank of China when he was told that his elder brother urgently needed to transfer some money. He was told it was for So’s new business in the mainland’s food industry, and that So could not let his wife know because he had failed his earlier ventures.

These two accounts held HK$17.9 million (US$2.2 million).

But the judge found the evidence of all four defendants unbelievable and concluded that they must have known or had reasons to believe they were not handling ordinary or legitimate money, given the large sums involved.

The court heard the youngest So, being a taxi driver, had more than HK$11.4 million in his HSBC account while Lo, a sales manager, had HK$35 million in Bank of China. Retired detective Tsang kept HK$6.78 million at HSBC.

Prosecutors said the unusual activity in the five men’s bank accounts caught police attention in mid-2011 because they were most active the day after the horse races, with large sums deposited and withdrawn within a short time. Their offence spanned from January 2007 to July 2011.

The retired sergeant was arrested on July 6, 2011. Police found him at home and seized betting slips, passbooks and bank cards at the scene while the TV was broadcasting the night races.

His four co-defendants’ passbooks and bank cards were later discovered in his motorcycle.

In mitigation, defence counsel Kevin Hon said his client So became addicted to gambling after he failed in his business ventures after retiring from the Royal Hong Kong Police Force in 1994 after close to three decades of service.

The former sergeant then became involved in illegal betting and started bookmaking in 2007.

“What upsets him the most was that he had implicated many who are close to him in this incident,” Hon said. “He only wish to complete his jail term as soon as possible so he could attend to his family and rebuild the relationship.”

Meanwhile, the nephew’s defence counsel Foster Yim drew the court’s attention to the fact that he did not personally gain from lending his account and argued that he played a relatively minor role in the crime.

So’s wife, daughter and niece, who had been charged in a separate case over the same scheme, will hear their verdict on August 13.


Category: Hong Kong

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