Eastern Magistrates’ Court, Hong Kong. Photo: Google Maps

Three Filipinos charged with using false documents to open bank accounts in Hong Kong were sentenced to five months’ jail at Eastern Magistrates Court on Monday.

Enrique Vargas, 30, a customer service representative; Ryan S Illustrisimo, 30, an administrative assistant; and Maureen M Gutierrez, 23 an assistant supervisor, each pleaded guilty to two counts of using a “false instrument”, hongkongnews.com.hk reported.

Magistrate Lam Tsz-kan said the three defendants could be jailed for six months for each charge but got lesser terms because of their guilty plea.

The court heard earlier that the three Filipinos arrived as tourists on October 9 last year. The next day they were arrested when they tried to open individual savings accounts at a Bank of China branch in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island. They presented copies of purported work contracts to bank staff, claiming that they were employees of Wharf Holdings and eligible to open accounts.

They also submitted forged documents showing addresses in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

A lawyer for the defendants said her clients were enticed to “go on a free tour of Hong Kong,” with free board and lodging and airline tickets. She said they accepted the offer out of greed, but were now remorseful.

Police investigators suspect that the bank accounts would have been used for money laundering activities but the defendants’ lawyer said they did not know anything except that they were offered a free tour to Hong Kong.

Under Hong Kong law, the charge of “using a false instrument” can carry a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

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