|Abstract as per original application
I aim to study money laundering offending in Hong Kong, its causes, typologies and implications for law reform. I am interested in why and how money laundering is done in Hong Kong and how our criminal law captures offenders within its net. My main question is whether there should be alternative legal measures not involving criminal prosecution and punishment to address money laundering in non-high profile cases. Would such alternative measures be sufficiently effective to be compatible with Hong Kong's international commitments and would they be acceptable to the local community?
Prosecutors can bring money laundering cases in one of three levels of court: (1) High Court, where the maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment, (2) District Court, maximum of 7 years imprisonment, and (3) Magistrates Court, maximum of 3 years imprisonment. I will study cases prosecuted in the District Court and, where judgments are available, the Magistrates Court.
There are approximately 600 District Court money laundering decisions (English and Chinese) in the Hong Kong Judiciary's database available since 2009. The decisions are of two kinds: reasons for sentence, typically where there has been a guilty plea, and reasons for verdict (guilty and not guilty). I will read and analyse these decisions both qualitatively and quantitatively. I aim to generate a body of knowledge of the characteristics of offenders who commit money laundering, the ways in which they commit the offence (typologies), their motivations and reasons for offending, the sentences imposed, the cases in which the prosecution could only prove the lower standard of having reasonable grounds to believe, and the circumstances giving rise to acquittals. From these empirical findings, I will publish at least one referred output in an international journal.
I also plan to use the empirical findings to inform law reform thinking, particularly the feasibility of introducing non-criminal law measures to address money laundering. The offence is often criticised for casting the net of criminal liability too wide. From interviews with experienced defence lawyers, prosecutors, law enforcement agents and other government officials, I hope to gain their perspectives on possible alternative measures such as civil penalties, injunctions, disqualifications, confiscation and other coercive orders. The knowledge gained from these interviews will help to frame and assess reform options. I will publish at least one referred output in an international journal that discusses reform options and their compatibility with international standards.