Press Release



Speech by Director of Public Prosecutions


Following is the speech by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Grenville Cross at the press conference announcing the creation of the Computer Crime Team today (Wednesday):

The Commitment

On 6 October 1999, as part of the Policy Address, it was announced that the Department of Justice would 'set up a team specially trained in the technical aspects of the operation of computers over networks and across national boundaries in 1999-2000'.


In light of that commitment, I am pleased to be able to announce publicly today the creation of our Computer Crime Team ('CCT'). Mr. Richard Turnbull, Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, an Australian who has been one of our prosecutors for 18 years, and is a commercial crime expert as well as an expert in intellectual property law, has been appointed Prosecution Policy Co-ordinator on Computer Crime, and Head of the CCT. His 5-man team will include three Senior Government Counsel and one Government Counsel.

Background to formation of CCT

Recent times have witnessed the increased use of computer networks to provide financial services and the transfer of funds, and the development of the Internet, and the explosion of popularity of online share dealing. Those developments have been matched by a surge in computer crime. Most major jurisdictions have encountered offences related to the misuse of computers, often involving fraud and theft through the Internet arising from 'electronic commerce' or 'e-commerce'. In England, remarkably, it is now estimated, by Visa International, that up to 15 per cent of the sales made over the Internet using a credit card could be fraudulent - whereas less than 1 per cent of credit card transactions in shops are fraudulent. Such figures must sound a loud warning bell for Hong Kong.

Most crimes that can be committed on paper can now be committed on the Internet. Very often, due to the codes, or 'encryption programmes', used by the so-called 'cyber criminals' when they communicate with each other on the Internet, the offences are difficult to detect. Criminals can use encryption to send messages for crimes from money laundering to sending coded triad messages. Of particular concern is the spread of pornography, often involving children. These crimes are often not only transnational in character, but, also, sophisticated and secret. There is also the problem of online gambling.

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors are facing new challenges. Criminal acts are being committed by computer and the evidence of these activities is recorded in electronic form. All sorts of offences are being committed in cyberspace. Evidence of these crimes is recorded digitally and then, to prevent detection, encrypted : that means that even when police seize the evidence, it can be difficult for them to break the codes and to see what actually has been going on. The problems associated with Internet crime include the speed at which it can be perpetrated, the impenetrability of the crime by law enforcers, and the need, given the development of e-commerce, to identify the most effective means to respond to the sophistication of the new criminality.

The specific offences in the Ordinances which relate to computer crime are :

* Access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent (Max sentence : 5 years) (Crimes Ord)

* Criminal damage to property, which applies to misuse of a computer programme or data (Max sentence : 10 years) (Crimes Ord)

* Unauthorised access to a computer by telecommunication (Max sentence : HK$20,000) (Telec. Ord)

* Burglary, which includes unlawful damage or alteration of computers in premises (Max sentence : 14 years ) (Theft Ord)

* False accounting, destroying, falsifying, etc. any record - including a record kept by means of a computer-made or required for any accounting purpose, or producing any such record in the knowledge that it is or may be misleading (Max sentence : 10 years ) (Theft Ord)

* Publishing an obscene article, which applies to the display of obscene articles on the Internet (Max sentence of 3 years and HK$1 million) (Control of Obscene and Indecent Publications Ord)

* The Electronic Transactions Ordinance, which commenced on 7 January 2000, reduces the opportunity for computer crime through the use of false identities.

The Internet has also become a medium for the dissemination of pornography. There is a Bill concerning child pornography currently before LegCo, and one of its features is a provision to make sure that the definition of child pornography includes :

a film, photograph, publication or computer-generated image or picture that indecently depicts a person who is, or looks like, a person under the age of 16 and includes data stored on a computer disc or by other electronic means which is capable of conversion into such a film, photograph, publication, image or picture.

Law enforcement response

As there are significant areas of criminal activity emerging which are computer and Internet based, it is necessary for both law enforcement agencies and the prosecuting service to equip themselves with the manpower and the expertise to address these problems. The police have created a dedicated 'Computer Crime Section' of 18 officers, backed up by a Computer Crime Investigation Cadre of 80 officers who are receiving part-time training. The ICAC have created a 'Computer Forensic and Research Development Section' of 7 officers. It is vital for the Department of Justice to do its part by putting firmly in place a team of specialist counsel able to advise the police and the ICAC on strategy, on charging, and on the way forward legislatively. Provided that my office can provide specialist legal advice of this nature it will be able to co-operate fully - both locally and internationally - in combating computer crime. It is essential that Hong Kong prosecutors and law enforcement officials be at the forefront of the international effort to meet these problems.

Other jurisdictions rightly expect those in Hong Kong at all levels to do their level best to address not only our own problems, but also those which are transnational. In the United States of America, for example, the FBI now has 16 cyber-crime units, and 13 were established in 1999. In 1999 the National Criminal Intelligence Service in the United Kingdom announced its plan to create a single national unit to monitor serious cases of computer misuse by perverts, and computer experts have successfully infiltrated electronic 'chat rooms' to hunt users swapping pornographic photographs and information. In addition to paedophiles, that unit will investigate electronic fraud and other criminal activities conducted via computers. In Germany, an Internet service provider was recently convicted of aiding and abetting the spread of child pornography because his company allowed access to the sites. Hong Kong's efforts in this area must not lag behind those of the international community. The people of Hong Kong rightly expect its prosecuting authority to be vigorous and imaginative in its approach to the problem of computer crime in all its facets.

The developing problem


Nature of Cases 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999

Hacking 1 5 4 4 7 13 218

PABX Fraud 0 3 4 5 5 4 0

Publication of

Obscene Article 0 0 1 6 6 13 32

Criminal Damage 0 1 2 4 3 3 4


Shopping Fraud 0 0 0 0 2 1 17

Others 3 3 7 7 2 4 25

Total 4 12 18 26 25 38 296

It will be seen that, at present, hacking, or unauthorised access to computers, is the main area of criminality. Whereas a burglar must force his way into premises, the hacker can enter a computer system from the security of his own home. Hackers have become a great threat to commercial security amid growing dependence on computers. Hackers were once thought to be mostly curious computer science students, but they have now also become associated with organised crime. Most serious hacking acitivites are aimed at corporate users and Internet service providers, with the aim of obtaining sensitive commercial information and Internet account data and selling them for profit.

These statistics, I must emphasise, do not illustrate the problem - they simply expose the tip of the problem. For example, because the Internet is global in its reach, punters can participate in gambling even when it is unlawful. In Hong Kong, it is illegal to gamble on anything except horse races and the Mark Six, and through any avenue except the Jockey Club. Bookmakers and gamblers who use illegal channels are breaking the law. The advent of global gambling on the Internet, with bookmaking sites deliberately targeting Hong Kong, is a new challenge. The Internet gambler can ruin himself in his home. Bets of almost any amount are instantly billed to Internet gambler's credit cards. That apart, unlawful online gambling is a direct threat to our income from betting tax.

Other problem areas include unlawful Internet shopping, and the illegal use of other people's credit cards to buy goods on the Internet. Hundreds of new websites appear each day. Cybercrooks looking to exploit the online shopping boom are building bogus web sites which either advertise goods that never materialise or record credit card numbers to be used later for multiple purchases. Others trade legitimately for a time to establish their credentials before advertising high cost items, delivering shoddy goods or fakes, and disappearing with the cash. Most of these incidents never come to the attention of the police because of the relatively low cost of goods such as books or CDs and because victims and criminals are spread across the globe. Stolen credit card numbers have been used to access pornographic sites for which innocent card holders are then billed.

Significant cases

Thus far, my office has been involved in a limited number of computer crime cases. That number, however, has given us a foretaste of things to come. In 1998, for example, Hiroyuki Takeda was imprisoned for 21 months for the offence of publishing obscene articles on the Internet; in 1999, Tsun Shui-luen was sentenced to community service for the offence, in relation to Ms Leung Oi-sie's medical records, of obtaining access to a computer with a view to dishonest gain for himself; in June 1999, seven teenagers were arrested for an Internet shopping fraud : the allegations being that while the accused used another person's credit card details to order goods on the Internet, the other suspects later handled the goods that were delivered. I predict with confidence a dramatic rise in the number of such cases being detected, advised upon and prosecuted by the CCT in the coming months and years.


The CCT must be properly trained to discharge its duties to the required standard. To that end, Mr. Turnbull is creating a computer crime mini-library. Regular liaison will take place between the CCT and local law enforcement officials and with international agencies, including the International Association of Prosecutors. In 1999, we organised four in-house seminars and briefings on computer crime, and these were attended by 106 counsel; we sent four counsel to two local workshops; at present we have one CCT counsel attending the 'Computer Forensic and Computer Crimes Investigation' Conference, organised by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, in conjunction with the police and the ICAC. The CCT will actively participate in overseas conferences and training courses devoted to computer crime and its combat.


Computer-related crime is on the increase. It manifests itself in many ways. It poses immense problems for law enforcement both in Hong Kong and internationally. It is true that only a limited number of computer crime cases have presented themselves to us thus far, but there are many cases occurring every day which await detection. Vigilance and preparation are what is now required of my office.

If for no other reason, it is essential that Hong Kong takes firm action to combat computer crime so as to ensure that its status as a major centre for e-commerce is not threatened. If existing legislation proves to be inadequate, we will be at the forefront of moves for more effective computer crime laws. For example, it may at some stage become necessary to change the law so that it is an offence to deceive a machine; the law at present requires a human victim. Again, a specific offence may be required to criminalise the use of e-mail bombing, or 'spamming'.

I can say that the establishment of the CCT is a clear demonstration of the commitment of the Department of Justice to provide maximum support to law enforcement agencies, and to provide expert prosecutors to conduct computer crime cases, and to ensure that Hong Kong's prosecuting authority is able to play a full and effective role in the combat of computer crime in all its forms at both the domestic and the international levels.

End/Wednesday, January 19, 2000