Edmund Wan, a Hong Kong internet radio host better known as “Giggs,” pleaded guilty to money-laundering and sedition charges after raising funds for protesters who fled to Taiwan. He has been in custody since February last year.
The prosecution revealed at a hearing in May that it had reached a plea agreement with the 53-year-old D100 Radio DJ, under which six out of the 10 charges he was facing would be kept on the file if he pleaded guilty to the four remaining charges.
Wan pleaded guilty to three money-laundering charges involving a total of HK$10.3 million and one count of sedition, an offence under a colonial-era law, in front of Judge Adriana Noelle Tse Ching at District Court on Thursday morning.
The sedition charge involved conspiring with others to host, create and publish online programmes between February 8 and November 21, 2020, intending to “bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against the Central Authorities, the government of Hong Kong, and administration of justice,” “promote feelings of ill-will and enmity between different classes,” “incite persons to violence,” and “counsel disobedience to law or any lawful order.”
Wan also agreed with the prosecution’s application to confiscate the crowdfunding proceeds as part of the plea deal.
The prosecution will also lift two money-laundering charges against Wan’s assistant, Alice Lee, in return for her decision not to object to the confiscation.
According to the case details revealed in court, Wan hosted a total of 39 video and audio programmes within the concerned period. All videos were uploaded to YouTube for public viewing and each clip drew around 30,000 views on average.
The programmes contained content that “incited others to resist or overthrow the Chinese Communist Party; throw petrol bombs; commit vigilantism against government officials; participate in civil disobedience to take down or obstruct the Hong Kong government; promote Hong Kong independence; support the self-determination of Taiwan; advocate for the pro-democracy primaries before the 2020 legislature election… and support offenders who fled to Taiwan.”
In one of the clips played during the hearing, Wan urged multiple foreign governments to impose sanctions on top Hong Kong officials. “We hope to see that one day the lesson for Carrie… will be as serious as if her entire family dies. Only then can the anger in our hearts be relieved,” the radio host said. The video had more than 52,000 views.
In another programme, Wan said that the people of Hong Kong were an independent ethnic group similar to those of Inner Mongolia, who “shall not be hijacked by the state with nationalism.”
Wan also called on his audience to rally on the street on the date of the delayed 2020 Legislative Council election. A slogan that read “You don’t allow me to vote, I shall come out and protest” was displayed in the background.
As for the money laundering charges, the case details suggested that there were “clear signs of money-laundering” in three bank accounts linked to Wan. The accounts contained more than HK$13.7 million, which was considered “disproportionate” to Wan’s declared income in his tax returns, which was around HK$12,000 per month.
The records showed a number of large transactions made “without clear reasons.” One account received 88 cash deposits amounting to around HK$1 million.
In addition, a total of HK$ 3.75 million was transferred from one of the accounts into Lee’s personal brokerage account. Lee’s lawyer said that it was kept as cash and was not invested in stocks.
Wan and Lee did not report any business to tax authorities that could incur such a high amount of deposits.
At the beginning of the hearing, the judge questioned why Wan’s lawyer Steven Kwan would allow the defendant to plead guilty when he wrote in mitigation that the radio host’s crowdfunding efforts were “legal.”
“I know the defendant wants to see his family member soon,” she said, but warned that the lawyer’s written comments could make the plea equivocal.
“Are you trying to trick me, Mr. Kwan?” Tse asked.
Kwan said he was trying to show there was no evidence that Wan knew he had been breaking the law, meaning he was only in breach of a less serious aspect of the money-laundering legislation.
The judge then adjourned the hearing for around 15 minutes for the lawyer to rewrite the mitigation and cross out the details on which he did not want the court to rely.
Kwan removed multiple paragraphs related to Wan’s crowdfunding scheme from the mitigation and retracted a mitigation letter written by former pro-democracy lawmaker Audrey Eu.
Wan had called for donations to support the living expenses of Hong Kong protesters who fled to Taiwan or were studying on the island in February 2020.
The radio host was arrested in November that year and was initially granted bail. However, he has been remanded in custody since he was rearrested in February 2021.
Sedition is outlawed by Hong Kong’s Crimes Ordinance, which was last amended in 1972 when Hong Kong was still a British colony.
It was unclear whether Wan would be sentenced on Thursday afternoon or on a later date.