BECAUSE of her employer’s support and the lack of vital evidence, a Filipina domestic worker who got entangled in a $1.1 million money laundering scam was able to avoid imprisonment.
Eastern Magistrate So Wai-tak on March 3 acquitted Susei W.S. of two charges of “conspiracy to deal with property known to represent or having reasonable grounds to believe such represent proceeds of an indictable offence.”
So said the prosecution failed to provide enough evidence to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He also noted that her employer, Madame Ching, had insisted in court that Susei is an honest person.
“I find the defendant not guilty…You are really extremely lucky that you have Madame Ching as your employer and you have (her and her family’s) support and trust,” Judge So told Susei on March 3.
“You can repay them by serving with honesty and integrity in the years to come,” he added.
Susei and her employer cried as they embraced each other after the judge announced his verdict.
The scammers had used Susei’s accounts in the Bank of China and Hang Seng Bank to transfer a total of $1,112,125 to a man who introduced himself to be an Americanin Nigeria in 2013.
“Defendant, by now I think you already know the risks of lending your account to another person,” Judge So told Susei.
“You could have spent 18 to 24 months in jail if convicted,” he added.
Barrister Ian Polson, Susei’s lawyer, said he himself was surprised by the outcome of the case.
“Very lucky. It’s a miracle. I did not expect that,” said Polson, a former judge in the now defunct Western Magistrates Courts.
“I think I was the most nervous person inside (the court room),” he added.
During the trial, Madame Ching said she and her family fully supported Susei and were willing to continue employing her even after what happened.
“(Susei) is honest and fair. She took care of my parents, especially my father who was in a wheel chair. Our family is willing to employ her further even after this incident,” said Madame Ching, who had twice renewed Susei contract.
“We unanimously decided to reserve the position for her in case she can return to work,” she added.
Susei said she allowed her bank accounts to be used because she believed the promises of her younger sister’s “Internet boyfriend.” Susei insisted that she did not know that she was dealing with “dirty money.”
She told the court that her younger sister Grace, who also worked in Hong Kong as a domestic worker, met the alleged brains behind the money laundering scheme through the Internet and they became online lovers.
Because Grace was supposed to be busy taking care of her employer’s children, she asked Susei if her “American boyfriend” could use Susei’s Bank of China account.
The American allegedly had a cousin who was sending him money to “renovate” a business in Nigeria.
“I believed because he was my sister’s boyfriend and he was already calling and saying that he wanted to marry my sister. I treated him as a part of our family,” Susei told the court on February 16.
“I also trusted my sister. She said the man was nice. They began talking to each other because (they were interested) in the Word of God and so he was able to gain the trust of my sister,” she added.
Based on the police investigation, the scammers used Susei’s Bank of China account to transfer $419,200 from Aug. 29, 2013 to Sept. 2, 2013.
When asked why the cousin had to course the money through her bank account, Susei said her sister’s boyfriend was then already visiting Nigeria and could not open a bank account because that “would require many documents.” She sent part of the money using remittance companies.
And because she could only remit up to $60,000, Susie was given the names and bank accounts of two other Filipinos and she deposited some of the money in their accounts.
Susei insisted that she had no inkling that what she was doing was illegal until after she was forced to close her Bank of China account when the bank informed her that they had “doubts” about the money deposited in her account.
“I really had no idea (until) I closed the bank account and I read something in the papers,” she said.
But then, Susei opened another account with Hang Seng Bank after her sister insisted on it. A total of $692,925 was deposited in this account from October 10, 2013 to December 10, 2013.
“I really did not think that it was a big problem. (The American) said there was no problem with the money,” Susei said.
In his ruling, Judge So said that while the Bank of China supposedly warned Susei, the prosecution failed to present the bank’s letter as evidence in court.
“The letter is not before me. I cannot speculate about the contents of the letter,” the judge said.
He also noted that after her arrest, Susei immediately cooperated with the police and showed them her Viber conversations with the American and an alleged copy of his passport.
Judge So also said that Susei might not have suspected that there was something illegal about the money because even Madame Ching agreed to deposit some of it.
The female employer told the court that Susei asked her to deposit $100,000 in cash because “the boyfriend of Susei’s sister was coming to Hong Kong and needed to book a hotel room.”
“Because on that day my father was just out of hospital and she took care of him, I went to the Hang Seng Bank to handle the money on her behalf,” Madame Ching said.
“I remember that…$100,000 because they requested for my I.D. card. I did not ever think the money was illegal,” she added.