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Court reserves verdict in $1.3M laundering case

19 April 2024

Money seized by police from an unrelated scam and money laundering case

Is your ignorance about the transfer of illegal funds into your bank account a valid defense against money laundering?

This is the question that is raised yet again in the money laundering case brought against two Filipina domestic helpers who both denied knowing how their bank accounts were used to siphon off money from an elderly local who fell prey to a romance scam.

Leonida C. Manlunas, 40 and Nora Antonio Reymundo, 47, appeared at Eastern Court yesterday, expecting to hear Magistrate Jeffrey Sze hand down his verdict, but were told they would have to wait until May 14 to learn their fate.


Both were again released on $5,000 bail each until the verdict.

Summing up, the defense team said both women gave their ATM cards to other people and by doing so, had lost control over their bank accounts.

He acknowledged that previous judgments on the same issue had not been favorable to the defendants, but reminded the court of the legal norm that an accused could be convicted only if the evidence shows them guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

“Maybe they were not smart, but that is the same reason why they should be found innocent of the charge brought against them,” said the lawyer, adding that the two did not have much education and exposure to commercial transactions, making them clueless about the sinister plan of those who took their ATMs.


The lawyer also urged the magistrate to accept the evidence given by Manlunas’ employer, who supported the defendant’s claim that an aunt who took her ATM had disappeared after her arrest, leaving her heavily in debt.

Manlunas is accused of laundering a total of $387,000 which was laundered through an HSBC account in her name between Dec. 18, 2020 and Jan. 8, 2021.

Reymundo faces a count of dealing with a total of $903,000 in her HSBC account between Feb 10, 2021 and Mar 4, 2021, knowing or had reason to believe, that the funds were proceeds of an indictable offence.


Both pleaded not guilty to the offence, and underwent trial from Mar 11 to 13 at Eastern Court.

Manlunas said in her defence that she opened the account at the behest of an aunt, Josephine, who said a friend needed it to transfer some money.

Manlunas admitted receiving text messages from HSBC each time a transaction was made using the account she opened, but said she did not understand what they were about. However, she did not call the bank’s hotline for clarification.

When she was arrested, a bank statement for the month of January 2021 was found by the police among her things in her employer’s flat. But when asked about this in court, Manlunas said she could not recall the incident.

She admitted receiving $1,600 from her aunt after opening the account, but insisted she did not know it would be used for criminal activities.

In Reymundo’s case, she said she opened her Hang Seng account after being repeatedly bugged by a younger cousin, Angelita Antonio, who said her friend’s boyfriend needed it to receive money from abroad.

This said friend, Ronilda or Dang Sumili, could not open the account herself as her employer was working with HSBC. Reymundo said she contacted “Dang” and was able to confirm this story.

After opening the account at HSBC’s branch in Central, Reymundo said she immediately handed the ATM to Dang’s boyfriend Chad who gave her $500, even when she was supposed to get $2,000 for doing the bidding.

From Feb. 17 to Mar 4, 2021, several bank transactions were made using the account, and Reymundo admitted receiving text messages from HSBC each time. She said she told Angelita about them, but her cousin advised her to just ignore them.

After her arrest on Jun 17, 2021, along with Angelita and Dang, Reymundo said she could no longer access her WhatsApp conversations with the two, as well as the brief exchange she had with Chad.

Both Angelita and Dang fled Hong Kong shortly afterwards, and are now on the city’s wanted list.

Money laundering is a serious offence in Hong Kong, for which the prescribed maximum penalty is 14 years in jail and fine of up to $5 million. However, the maximum sentence that a magistracy can normally impose is two years’ imprisonment and a fine of $100,000.\


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