As reported by Hong Kong News, 3 Filipino call center employees were recently sentenced to spend 5 months in prison for opening bank accounts with forged documents. They had been enjoying a ‘free trip’ to Hong Kong when they were brought in by the authorities. Each of the three defendants had pleaded guilty “to two counts of ‘using a false instrument’ at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts in Sai Wan Ho.”
Although they pleaded guilty, the 3 maintain that there was no malicious intent on their part. The defendants (Enrique Vargas, Maureen Gutierrez, and Ryan Illustrisimo) were all ‘enticed’ to go on a free tour of Hong Kong individually. They were promised that their flights and accommodations would all be taken care of. The only catch was that they would have to open a bank account for the individual behind the ‘free trip’.
They say that they did not understand the gravity of the offense which was why they agreed to it. So on October 10, 2018, the defendants opened bank accounts at the Bank of China and in the Standard Chartered Bank on October 9, 2018. They admitted to using forged documents stating employment at Wharf Holdings and addresses in Hong Kong as well as the Philippines.
Bank officials initially allowed them to open accounts but soon became suspicious of the documents. When the 3 returned to the Bank of China branch in Admiralty a few days later, they were swiftly apprehended. Hong Kong’s authorities suspect that the bank accounts were intended for money laundering.
The three were reportedly meant to be jailed for a total of 12 months each but had their sentence heavily reduced to only 5 months since they pleaded guilty.
Do you think the sentence was fair?