Sunday, January 17, 2021

Former Hong Kong beach volleyball player accused of laundering crowdfunded funds

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A former Hong Kong beach volleyball player and primary school teacher, who was convicted of assaulting a police officer during last year’s social unrest, was arrested on Sunday for allegedly laundering HK$5.8 million (US$748,000) following his crowdfunding campaign to raise HK$500,000 for his ailing parents.

Yeung Pok-man, 30, was jailed for nine weeks in September for kicking an officer in Sheung Shui during a citywide strike by anti-government protesters on November 11 last year. He was the first teacher to be convicted over the unrest sparked in June last year by the now-withdrawn extradition bill. Yeung was dismissed by his school.

He did not need to serve his sentence immediately as he was released pending an appeal.

The police’s financial investigation division revealed on Monday that officers suspected Yeung to have converted cash using his bank account in which HK$5.87 million was received between September 8 and October 24. The sum of money was 10 times more than the target he had set.

Investigators were also looking into two properties worth HK$13 million in total and owned by Yeung and his family.

“We suspect he took advantage of public sympathy by claiming he had gone broke, and covered up money received from illegal sources,” said Chief Inspector Tang Hoi-tung of the narcotics bureau, adding that they were probing if deception was also involved.

“The fundraising could be just an excuse used to cover up the money-laundering activities.”

But Tang did not explain where the illegally sourced money could have come from.

Officers have frozen HK$5.07 million in Yeung’s bank account and seized his phone, bank cards and statements.

The former physical education teacher made the online request and revealed his bank account details on social media on September 9 after the sentencing, claiming he was jobless and would only use the money for his parents’ medical expenses and daily necessities as he faced imprisonment.

“I still have a long hearing process and have no other choice but to do this [crowdfunding] for the sake of helping my parents,” Yeung wrote online.

But soon afterwards, he said he had achieved the target and would stop receiving any funding.

Yeung’s father suffers from diabetes and was diagnosed with liver cancer two years ago, while his mother has been battling depression for more than a decade. Yeung has been the family’s breadwinner.

He represented Hong Kong at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia where he and his beach volleyball partner Chui Kam-lung finished third in the group but failed to reach the knockout stage.

Yeung was said to have resisted officers after being told to leave his car, kicking Sergeant Chung Wang-yip in the abdomen. He denied the assault and said he had been battered by police, who he claimed nearly threw him off the bridge after subduing him.

On June 12, Magistrate Debbie Ng Chung-yee found Yeung guilty after ruling his statements were not believable. She suggested he could have fabricated the story due to a personality disorder and might be mentally unfit to teach.

The judiciary received various complaints about Ng’s conduct during the trial, in which the magistrate remanded Yeung to Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre to see whether any underlying mental disabilities made him lie in court.

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