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Emry’s owner to stand trial next year in $5.7 million laundering case

18 September 2023


Ylagan outside the District Court in earlier hearing (File)

After seven years of investigation and court hearings, 70-year-old former employment agency owner Ester Ylagan will be tried at the District Court between January and February next year, on charges of laundering a total of $5.7 million over a seven-month period in 2016.

The 15-day trial from January 15 to February 2, 2024 was set after a pre-trial hearing held in chambers today at the District Court.

Ylagan pleaded not guilty to all four charges of money laundering nearly a year ago, or on Sept. 20, 2022.


The trial date was originally set for January this year but Ylagan’s counsel had asked for more time to review the documents in the case which include 4,000 depositions of 43 witnesses, including 25 listed as victims.

Ylagan’s bail of $40,000 was renewed until the trial, set before Deputy District Court Judge Katherine Lo.

According to the charge sheet read out to Ylagan in court on August 11 last year, the alleged offences took place between Jan 29 to Jul 8, 2016, and involved a series of transactions, all in violation of the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance.


In the first charge, Ylagan is accused of “dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence” on Jan 29 and May 5, 2016, in the sum of HK$2,633,181.52 and US$44,658 (HK$347,439).

The total sum of HK$2,980,620 was dealt with in cash.

The second count allegedly happened between May 12 to 23, 2016, during which the total sum of USD300,00 (HK2,334,000) was moved by Ylagan from an account with Standard Chartered Bank.


In the third count, Ylagan is accused with dealing with money believed to be proceeds from a crime, amounting to US$10,055 (HK$78,227) between May 25 and 26, 2016.

The last charge accuses Ylagan of handling a total amount of US$50,000 (HK$389,000), knowing it to be proceeds of a crime, on Jul 8, 2016.

The last two transactions were made using an account Ylagan held at HSBC.

OFWs line up to snap overseas jobs offered by Ylagan in 2016 (File)

The dates of the alleged offenses coincided with a job recruitment to Canada and the United Kingdom which Ylagan conducted at Emry’s office in WorldWide Plaza. At the time, Emry’s was the biggest recruitment firm for Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Relying on Emry’s solid reputation in the business, about 200 Filipino migrant workers said they were enticed to apply for the jobs advertised by Ylagan, purportedly in the United Kingdom and Canada, for which each applicant was charged $10,000 or $15,000.


The jobs all turned out to be bogus, and Ylagan jumped the gun on the applicants by going to the police and complaining about an online business partner she named as William Clinton Evans who allegedly duped her of $4.19 million before disappearing.

Ylagan also told police in a statement that it was Evans, whom she met only online, who offered to place her applicants in the UK or Canada. But after signing up about 400 applicants, she said she stopped because Evans wanted her to double the number.

Her unseen partner then stopped communicating with her, and Ylagan fled to the Philippines. She returned to Hong Kong in June 2018 and was promptly arrested.

Lawyers acting for the complainants at the time claimed they uncovered documents showing Ylagan and several other people close to her had sent a total of around $10 million to several countries as far apart as Malaysia and Burkina Faso.

The documents were turned over to the police, along with the names of the others involved in the apparent money laundering scam, but only Ylagan was arrested and charged.

Of the more than 200 Filipino applicants who sought police help, about 150 have filed claims to recover their money from Ylagan.

Some of the claims were upheld at the Small Claims Tribunal in Ylagan’s absence while the rest were moved to the District Court where they remain undecided.

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