Canadian funds carried by money mule to China
The Court of Appeal for Hong Kong has upheld the money laundering conviction of a woman who acted as a money mule to China, and increased her sentence to two years.
The decision, HKSAR v. Ngai Fund Sin Apple is one of a series of criminal money laundering cases in Hong Kong that have been prosecuted over money mules – people who are hired to transport proceeds of crime into other countries.
The defendant, Ngai Fung-Sin Apple, was born in Mainland China and moved to Hong Kong in 1989. In 2005, she opened an account at the Bank of China and almost never used it. Suddenly, in January of 2011, five transactions were wired into her account via the Internet from two Canadians from the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited totalling $243,869.
Subsequently, the HKSB reported that the transfers were completed without authorization and the remitters did not know Ms. Apple. However, Ms. Apple quickly withdrew the wired funds in cash and transported them to China where she remained for a year.
Ms. Apple was arrested upon re-entry into Hong Kong a year later and charged with money laundering.
She testified at her trial that she committed the offence, and that she did it because she wanted to help a friend, Chen Yan, who needed funds in China. According to Ms. Apple, Ms. Yan asked to use her bank account to receive the funds and then asked her to carry the funds to China. Ms. Apple agreed to do so, believing it was legal and that she was merely helping her friend.
She was found guilty at trial and sentenced to 10 months’ incarceration (DCCC 198/2012). The Secretary for Justice in Hong Kong appealed the sentence on the grounds that it was too lenient for international money mule activities.
The Court of Appeal agreed that a sentence of 10 months was too lenient for laundering proceeds of crime. Her sentence was increased to two years.
The Court of Appeal noted that Ms. Apple allowed others to use her bank account from Canada and then directly dealt with the funds by withdrawing them from the account and transporting them to China. The fact that she did not personally gain from the process was irrelevant. The Court of Appeal went on to note that money laundering is a “very serious crime because it indirectly furthers the commission of other serious crimes, especially international crimes; therefore, the court must deal with it seriously in order to produce a deterrent effect.”