Duo jailed for $3.6m school donations fraud and laundering crime proceeds
A former assistant admissions officer (D1) of an international school and her husband (D2), charged by the ICAC, were today (October 9) sentenced to jail terms up to 34 months for defrauding and attempting to defraud three parents of donations totalling $3.6 million in relation to the admission of their children to the school, and laundering the related crime proceeds respectively.
D1, 28, received a jail term of 34 months, while her husband, D2, 26, leathersmith, was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment.
In sentencing, Ms Winnie Lau Yee-wan, sitting as Deputy District Judge at the Shatin Magistracy, said D1’s offences constituted a serious breach of trust as she served as a bridge between the school and the parents on admission matters. Meanwhile, a deterrent jail term was also imposed on D2 in view of the seriousness of the money laundering offences he committed.
D1 was earlier found guilty of three charges – two of fraud, contrary to Section 16A of the Theft Ordinance, and one of attempted fraud, contrary to Section 16A of the Theft Ordinance and 159G of the Crimes Ordinance.
D2 was convicted of two counts of dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence, contrary to Section 25(1) of the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance.
The case arose from a corruption complaint. Subsequent ICAC enquiries revealed the above offences.
The court heard that at the material time, D1 was an assistant admissions officer of the Hong Kong branch of an international school (the international school) operating classes from kindergarten one to year 13. She was responsible for processing applications for admissions to the international school and arranging suitable applicants for interviews. D2 was then her boyfriend and now her husband.
In late April 2015, D1 told a mother that she was required to pay $600,000 as sponsorship to the international school in order to get a confirmation of admission for her daughter. In the belief that the sponsorship was genuine, the mother acceded to the request and issued a cheque for $600,000.
D1 also told the mother that D2, a director of the international school, would issue a receipt to the mother afterwards. But investigation revealed that the cheque was subsequently deposited into D2’s account held with a bank.
On February 29, 2016, D1 called another mother to tell her that the result of her daughter’s interview was fair, and the chance of her daughter being admitted to the international school was slim. If she agreed to donate $1.5 million to $2.5 million to the Shanghai branch of the international school, her daughter would be given priority for admission to the international school.
After consideration, the mother decided to donate $1.5 million on condition that her daughter would be admitted to the international school immediately. The mother later received a notification from the international school that her daughter was admitted.
On March 4, 2016, D1 called the mother and urged her to prepare a cheque for $1.5 million payable to D2, whom D1 claimed was a senior officer of the international school.
A few days later, the mother passed the cheque to D1 when she visited the international school. When the mother asked D1 for a donation receipt, D1 refused to do so, giving the reason that the donation was made to the Shanghai branch of the international school in the mother’s private capacity.
On the same day, D2 caused the cheque to be deposited into his account with another bank.
The court also heard that D1 informed a third mother on February 26, 2016 that her daughter ranked low in the waiting list of the admission exercise, but the chance could be enhanced if the mother agreed to the proposal of donating $1.5 million to $2.5 million to the Shanghai branch of the international school.
The mother revealed the matter to an assistant registrar of the international school, but the assistant registrar replied that there was no such proposal from the international school.
The international school confirmed that there was no donation or sponsorship programme entitling a donor admission priority at the school. Investigation also revealed that D2 was never a director or senior officer of the international school or its Shanghai branch.
The international school had rendered full assistance to the ICAC during its investigation.
The prosecution was today represented by Acting Senior Public Prosecutor Janice Cheuk, assisted by ICAC officer Caroline Yu.