White-collar crimes include various non-violent crimes usually committed in commercial situations for financial gain. It has been a rising issue in Hong Kong for the past few years. In particular, embezzlement is one of the most common ones within the category. Recently, a decision was made in the High Court regarding an accountant manager embezzling HKD$380 million from his company from 2009 to 2016. The defendant used the online banking security token of his supervisor to access the accounts of his company and transfer the money without any approval from the company. The court ruled that the defendant was guilty of 4 sections of theft with a sentence of 15 years.
In Hong Kong, the offence for embezzlement is not codified currently. Such conducts would normally be charged with fraud or theft under the Theft Ordinance Cap.210. In s.9 of the Theft Ordinance, a person commits theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention to permanently depriving the other of it. Anyone guilty of theft would be imposed a prison sentence of a maximum of 10 years. Under s.16A, a person is charged with fraud if he by any deceit and with intent to defraud another person to commit an act which results in benefiting any person other than the person being defrauded or results in prejudice or a substantial risk of prejudice to any other person. Anyone guilty of fraud would serve a maximum sentence of 14 years.
In criminal cases, there are a number of rights which protects the defendant under the Hong Kong Basic Law. Firstly, the presumption of innocence before conviction. Secondly, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution so there is no requirement of the defendant proving his innocence. The defendant would be innocent unless it could be proven by the prosecution. Thirdly, the standard of proof is one of beyond reasonable doubt, meaning that the defendant would not be guilty if there is any doubt that the crime is not committed. Fourthly, defendants have the right to have legal presentation as defendants have access to lawyers in legal proceedings. Lastly, defendants have the right to appeal against conviction and sentence to a higher court if they are not satisfied with the court’s decision.
If necessary, you can also apply for legal aid. Ms. Ngan is a member of the Legal Aid Department Penal for Criminal, Divorce/Family Law, Employees’ Compensation, Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, and Land Disputes. If legal aid is approved, the aided person has the right to choose a lawyer to represent.
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