FDH, employer charged in $19.1M money laundering case
A Filipino domestic worker and her 66-year-old employer in Mid-Levels were charged with money laundering at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts yesterday (January 7).
Prosecutors accused J.E. Palpal-latoc and her employer, P.H. Wong, of laundering HK $19,104,851.68 from January 2010 until May 2018.
“Wong…together with (Palpal-latoc) dealt with property, namely (the $19 million), held in the name of Firstmount Investments Limited with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that the said property…represented the proceeds of an indictable offense,” the prosecution said.
Wong, Palpal-latoc, and a third Filipina domestic worker—J.V. Gallego—were also charged with “conspiracy to live on earnings of prostitution of others” after the police in May busted the online prostitution ring that Wong allegedly handled.
Gallego was not charged with money laundering because investigators checked her financial records and discovered that she had no bank account, a prosecutor said.
The two cases will be consolidated and Eastern Principal Magistrate Peter Law adjourned the case to January 29 for preparation of its transfer papers before the case is elevated to the District Court.
In the meantime, Judge Law allowed Palpal-latoc and Gallego to post a $500 bail, with the two Filipino women staying at the shelter of the Philippine Consulate General and reporting to the police twice a week. They had been detained for eight months.
Wong, on the other hand, was allowed to post bail for a hefty sum of $300,000.
Her lawyer complained that the prosecution on Friday (January 4) had told the court that there would be no more additional charges against Wong and the Palpal-latoc.
He said Wong was on police bail until January 31 but she received a message over the weekend that if she did not report to the police, “they were going to arrest here.”
A government lawyer on Friday initially told Judge Law that the prosecution as thinking of filing an additional charge of “money laundering $20 million” but she later told the court that she was mistaken.
Wong’s lawyer said their camp would ask for the official transcript of the hearing last Friday.
A prosecutor told the court in May that the two Filipino domestic workers had admitted to helping run a high-end prostitution ring from a luxury apartment on Tregunther Path.
The online prostitution ring allegedly offered through websites the services of Russian and Venezuelan prostituted women for a charge of $6,000 to $7,000 (P40,000 to P46,000) an hour.
“Under caution, they each admitted that they knew the purpose of the websites and to offering help in managing the sites,” the prosecutor said.
He said Palpal-latoc admitted to helping in answering phone calls from clients and in arranging their appointments with the sex workers.
“She obtained a percentage–.005 percent profit–from the sex workers,” the prosecutor said.
On the other hand, Gallego admitted to arranging appointments with clients, “taking care of the websites,” and recording the business transactions in their ledgers, he added.
The two Filipino women face charges of “living on earnings of prostitution” since 2009. The offense which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
The defendants were arrested when members of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau raided their employer’s home on May 15 and also reportedly confiscated $10 million in cash.
“A number of police officers (first) met with the sex workers and (later) traced the registered address of the domain or website,” the prosecutor said.
He said investigators confiscated 11 mobile phones, seven landline phones, 17 ledgers, and four computers “with six to eight hard drives.”
Judge Law at the time asked the prosecutor why the two domestic workers were in jail while their employer, the alleged mastermind, was free on bail.
The prosecutor explained the two Filipino women were kept in jail because they had admitted to the crime while their co-accused were allowed bail because they did not admit to anything when interviewed by the police.