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Overstaying Filipina charged with laundering $691k

22 February 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Dirty money was deposited into FDHs' accounts, then withdrawn using their ATM cards

A Filipina domestic helper appeared in Eastern Court again today, Feb. 22, charged with overstaying her visa and laundering a total of $691,056 through her HSBC bank account between May 2019 and August last year.

The court was told that Hong Kong police launched an investigation into the account of Kris Hope Vargas, who used to work here as a domestic helper, after the suspicious transfers to her account were detected.

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Magistrate Bina Chainrai ordered the charges read to Vargas, who emerged in the dock wearing a grey sweatshirt and her hair tied back in a pony tail. She last appeared in court on Jan. 25.

According to the charges, the money was deposited and withdrawn by unknown persons in an ATM account that Vargas opened in Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp earlier in 2019. The transactions continued even after she had gone underground when her visa expired.

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When the bank noticed the suspicious money movement, it alerted the police. Vargas was arrested on Nov 20 last year on suspicion of “dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of indictable offence” and violating her visa conditions.

The prosecution said the overstaying charge resulted from her failure to leave Hong Kong after her visa expired on Mar 10 last year, following her premature dismissal from work the previous month.


Prosecutors said they were ready for the defendant’s plea, but her lawyer asked for an adjournment for further investigation and legal advice.

The defense lawyer also asked for $2,000 bail for Vargas, who has been in police custody since her arrest, but the magistrate refused the application.


The magistrate adjourned the case until Apr 9 and ordered the defendant remanded in custody.

Most of the recent cases involved HSBC ATM savings accounts

In the past few months, the police have arrested a couple of Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers whose bank accounts were used by unknown people to launder money.

In most of the cases, the helpers were helped to set up ATM savings accounts by people who offered them part time work, saying their payments would be deposited there directly.

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Syndicates then transferred money into the bank accounts, then used the helpers'  ATM cards to take out all the cash within hours.

The helpers only realized they had been dragged into a money laundering scam after they received notices from the bank about suspicious activities in their accounts, or when the  police came knocking on their doors.

The recent cases prompted the Consulate to warn Filipinos in Hong Kong against lending their ATM cards and account passwords to other people, whether friends or strangers.

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