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Market manipulators convicted in landmark High Court jury trial

The Court of First Instance today convicted three individuals, Ms Sit Yi Ki, Ms Lam Wing Ki and Mr Tam Cheuk Hang of conspiracy to carry out false trading in the shares of Ching Lee Holdings Limited (Ching Lee) following an historic 22-day market manipulation trial by jury.

This is a highly sophisticated and complex market manipulation case and the criminal prosecution was brought by the Department of Justice following extensive investigations by the SFC. This also marks the first time that an offence under the Securities and Futures Ordinance (SFO) has been tried at the Court of First Instance.

The nine-member jury at the Court of First Instance unanimously found Sit and Tam guilty of the charge of conspiracy to commit false trading. The jury also returned a guilty verdict against Lam by majority.

The prosecution stemmed from the SFC’s investigations which revealed that, between March 2016 and September 2016, Sit, Lam and Tam conspired together with Ho Ming Hin, Simon Suen Man and other unknown persons to carry out a complex scheme of market manipulation.

They conspired to maintain an artificial turnover of the shares in Ching Lee by conducting manipulative transactions among 156 securities accounts under their control. This resulted in a false or misleading appearance of active trading and an artificial increase in trading volume for Ching Lee shares. The manipulative trading activities took place over a period lasting for more than five months in 2016 and netted illicit profits of over $124 million (Note 1).

The SFC’s Executive Director of Enforcement, Mr Christopher Wilson, said: “We welcome the verdicts by the jury. The outcome of this case sends a strong deterrent message on the legal consequence of undermining the integrity of Hong Kong’s securities markets and the confidence of the investing public. It also underscores the SFC’s commitment to holding accountable wrongdoers who seek to abuse our markets for personal gains.”

“The successful prosecution of these manipulators is the latest in the SFC’s all-out efforts to combat market misconduct and other forms of financial crime in Hong Kong. The SFC has bolstered its investigative capabilities and it will continue to make full use of its statutory powers to mount complex and impactful enforcement actions,” Mr Wilson added.

The Court adjourned the case to 17 June 2024 for sentencing. The three defendants applied for bail but their applications were refused by the learned Judge. They are remanded in custody by the Correctional Services Department pending sentencing.

In parallel with the criminal proceedings, the SFC has commenced proceedings under section 213 of the SFO against various local and overseas corporations and individuals, including Sit, Lam and Tam. In this connection, the SFC has obtained an interim injunction order to freeze their assets (Note 2).

The SFC further obtained arrest warrants on 28 August 2020 against Ho and Suen, both of whom had left Hong Kong after the SFC commenced investigations against them. They have been placed under the “Have you seen these people?” on the SFC’s website, and the SFC urges the public to report their whereabouts. Both of them are alleged members of the conspiracy to manipulate shares of Ching Lee (Note 3).

End

Notes:

  1. Please see the SFC’s press release dated 13 August 2020 for details.

  2. Please see the SFC’s press releases dated 27 August 2019 and 31 October 2023 for details.

  3. Please see the SFC’s press release dated 31 August 2020 for details. The SFC has added Ho and Suen to the list of individuals subject to arrest warrants under the “Have you seen these people?” on the SFC’s website.


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