3 Filipino call center agents on ‘free tour of Hong Kong’ arrested

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Eastern Magistrates' Courts in Sai Wan Ho

THREE call center agents from the Philippines landed in jail after their “free tour” of Hong Kong turned out to be a scam that police suspect might be linked to money laundering.

The three Filipino suspects—Enrique V., Ryan S.I., and Maureen M.G.—were brought to Eastern Magistrates’ Courts in Sai Wan Ho on January 7 for a mention hearing.

The defendants—who appeared to be in their late 20s or early 30s—are facing charges of “using a false instrument.”

A government official familiar with the case said the suspects claimed that they were enticed to “go on a free tour of Hong Kong,” with free board and lodging and airline tickets.

But when they got here, they were told by their contacts  to open bank accounts with the Bank of China and Standard Chartered Bank using fake documents that showed that they were employed here in HK.

They were arrested when they returned to a Bank of China branch after their application to open an account was rejected. Investigators suspect that the accounts were intended for money laundering.

“They were offered a free tour…they’re their families’ bread winners,” the official said.

A government prosecutor told Eastern Principal Magistrate Peter Law that government lawyers needed more time to review the details of case and asked for a six-week adjournment, which the judge granted.

“All three defendants, your case is further adjourned to the 18th of February,” Judge Law said.

He also told Maureen to apply for the Duty Lawyer Service, which is similar to the Public Attorney’s Office in the Philippines, because she had no lawyer during the court hearing on January 7.

Under Hong Kong law, the charge of “using a false instrument” carries a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment.