Shirlina Tsang, a former Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc trader who pleaded guilty in Hong Kong to fraud for trying to hide losses of 19.5 million pounds ($30.8 million), was sentenced to 50 months in jail.
“This is an extremely serious offense,” District Court Judge Garry Tallentire said as he handed down the sentence today. “Your acts led to enormous losses by RBS.”
Tsang, 43, had admitted to creating false records of her bond trading from mid-2010 until Oct. 14, 2011 to make it appear she was generating profit at the Edinburgh-based bank.
Nick Leeson, who covered up losses of more than 800 million pounds at Barings Plc, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years prison in Singapore in 1995 while Jerome Kerviel, received a three-year jail term and was ordered to repay Societe Generale SA (GLE)’s 4.9 billion-euro loss ($6.5 billion) in 2010, Tsang’s lawyer Edwin Choy had argued earlier in a plea for leniency.
The sentences of the other traders Choy had cited took place in different times, conditions and jurisdictions, Tallentire said.
“Financial services offenses are being treated with increasing severity,” said Denis Brock, a litigation partner at King & Wood Mallesons. “This might suggest a trend that whilst individuals were, in the past, less familiar with the opprobrium which such offenses generated, there is no longer any excuse,” he said.
Tsang should’ve been subject to more checks and supervision, especially given the examples of other losses suffered by banks cited by her lawyer, Tallentire said. She could’ve been jailed for as long as seven years.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority instructed RBS to implement proper remedial measures to enhance its controls and processes, the city’s de-facto central bank said in response to questions.
“The HKMA is monitoring the implementation of the remedial actions,” a spokeswoman said.
RBS said it had made significant investments to help ensure that similar incidents will not reoccur. The bank had discovered the fraud two years ago, notified the authorities and fired Tsang, spokeswoman Yuk Min Hui said.
“We have been cooperating fully with all relevant authorities,” Hui said.
Tsang was remorseful, admitted her mistake to RBS and repaid the bank her bonus, Choy said. Her “colossal misjudgment” was due to work stress and depression caused by her brother’s death, he said.
Anita Chow, another of Tsang’s lawyers, declined to comment on her sentence after the hearing.
RBS, Britain’s biggest publicly owned lender after a record 45.5 billion pound bailout in 2008, reported net income of 535 million pounds in the first half, compared with a 2 billion-pound loss in the year earlier period.
The case is Hong Kong SAR v Tsang Pui-Yu, Shirlina, DCCC326/2013, Hong Kong District Court.
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