News & Knowledge

Understanding more about money laundering

更加了解「洗黑錢」

08/02/2024

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」一詞令人感覺這個罪行本質上一定是經過精密部署,甚至與黑社會等不見得光的交易有關。惟事實上,「洗黑錢」在某種意義上是一個很技術性的罪行,稍一不慎,就會有誤觸法網之虞。尤其是近三年,「洗黑錢」案涉及傀儡戶口總被捕人數持續上升,當中不乏有被定罪人士報稱只是「為了幾千蚊酬勞」、「幫朋友」而觸犯了法例,最後身陷牢獄之災。

「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。

相關罪行的量刑準則一般是基於案情中涉及的金額:牽涉100萬到200萬會有3年左右的刑期;300萬至600萬會有4年左右的刑期;而超過1000萬的款項則可能會有超過5年或以上的刑期。根據警方數字,2023年首8個月,被懷疑利用傀儡戶口洗黑錢人數已達3958人,超過去年數字。警方進一步表示,由於香港「洗黑錢」案近期不斷上升,他們會繼續加強執法,將尋求聯同律政司向法庭要求向同類案件加刑兩成。

在近來的「洗黑錢」案件中,大多數人均表示自己不知情,只是為了幫朋友開個戶口方便他使用云云。然而,即使當事人報稱不知情,法庭均認為這不是一個合理辯解,不是成為任何減刑的求情理由。故此,本行鄭重呼籲各位男女老幼,不論是做生意的,抑或是普通升斗市民,在為朋友處理牽涉到銀行帳戶、或任何與金錢往來有關的事宜前,務必非常謹慎,要先了解清楚背後的來龍去脈。更理想的做法,是尋求正式法律意見,以免為自己的人生平日蒙上觸犯嚴重刑事罪行的陰影。

2024-02-21T12:26:32+08:00