News & Knowledge

Understanding more about money laundering



It is a common mis-conception that money laundering only involves intricate schemes and illicit transactions associated with criminals. However, it is a crime that may happen through seemingly normal banking transactions and one that innocent people may get involved in easily. In the past 3 years, there has been an increasing number of money laundering cases with defendants claiming that they “simply let others use their bank accounts”. It is therefore necessary to explore the crime further and its consequences.

“Money laundering” is formally known as “Dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of indictable offence” under section 25 of the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 455) (“OSCO”). Section 25(1) states that “a person commits an offence if, knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that any property in whole or in part directly or indirectly represents any person’s proceeds of an indictable offence, he deals with that property”. It casts a wide net in that it not only catches people who possess actual knowledge that the property is a proceed of crime, but also those who should have reasonable grounds to believe so. Further, this offence is classified as an indictable offence instead of a summary offence, which means that it is a comparatively serious offence.

If found guilty, money laundering would usually lead to imprisonment. The length of imprisonment may depend on the amount laundered – 3 years for HK$1M to HK$2M; 4 years for HK$3M to HK$6M; and 5 years + for amounts over HK$10M. According to Police data, reported cases of money laundering up to August 2023 has already overtook the total number of cases in 2022. Given the increase in money laundering cases, there have been talks of increasing the length of imprisonment by 20% as a deterrent.

Many defendants in money laundering cases claim that they only helped their friends to open an account or received monies on their behalf, with no knowledge that the monies received were proceeds of crime. The Courts are not usually convinced by this explanation and such excuse would not constitute a viable defence or mitigating factor.

Hence, everyone should be aware of the source of funds, and the reasons for transfer, when receiving monies, in order to avoid being used by criminals for money laundering purposes.


「洗黑錢」的正式罪行名稱為「處理已知道或相信為代表從可公訴罪行的得益的財產」,違反《有組織及嚴重罪行條例》(香港法例第 455章)第 25條。其中第25(1)條指出「如有人知道或有合理理由相信任何財產全部或部分、直接或間接代表任何人從可公訴罪行的得益而仍處理該財產,即屬犯罪」。本罪行涵蓋的範圍廣泛,任何人即使實際上不知道,但有合理理由相信其處理的財產代表一些嚴重罪行的得益,就有可能觸犯這項法例。此外,此罪行為可公訴罪行而非簡易程序罪行,即比簡易程序罪行嚴重性較高的罪行。