The deal that could let Hong Kong banker turned sex-murderer Rurik Jutting go back to Britain

Niall Fraser and Phila Siu
Migrant workers protest outside the High Court in Hong Kong in support of the victims of British banker Rurik Jutting.
Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

He was single, super-intelligent and earning enough money that if he wanted it, he bought it. They were so desperate that they sold themselves to him – and paid with their lives.

Double sex-murderer Rurik Jutting – the Bank of America-Merrill-Lynch investment banker from comfortable middle England who was jailed for life by a Hong Kong court on November 8 – turned inhumanity into a sick art-form for the digital age when he tortured 23-year-old Sumarti Ningsih, 23, and Seneng Mujiasih, 26, from Indonesia, then cut their throats before recording his thoughts about what he had done on his mobile phone.

His defence against murder was to seek a lesser manslaughter charge on the grounds his judgement had been substantially impaired at the time of the crimes by cocaine and alcohol. In other words, 'the drugs and booze made me do it'. But the jury weren't fooled and neither was the judge, Mr Justice Stuart-Moore, who rejected out of hand Jutting's self-important post-sentencing statement to the court about the "evil" he had done. "Let no one be fooled by the defendant's superficial charm. He has not shown a shred of remorse," the judge said.

But Jutting wasn't finished, the 31-year-old Briton whose mother was born in Hong Kong, then announced his intention to apply – as is his legal right – to serve his sentence in England under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement that Hong Kong signed with Britain a year after the 1997 handover.

Stuart-Moore said he would make sure "the English authorities will know the exact type of person they will have to deal with", describing the murders as "one of the most horrifying cases" tried in Hong Kong courts. "There are insufficient superlatives to describe the cruelty he's done to Sumarti Ningsih and Seneng Mujiasih," he concluded.

Police stand guard as British banker Rurik Jutting is driven away in a prison van after his verdict outside the High Court in Hong Kong on November 8, 2016.
Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

New figures obtained by This Week in Asia reveal that if – and it is a big if – the application by Jutting is successful, he will be the first convicted murderer to be transferred out of the Hong Kong penal system. A flight home and perhaps an escape from a prison that, however secure, cannot keep out the sounds, smells and sights of the city that remind him – and others – of his horrific crimes.

Such transfers are carried out under bilateral Transfer of Sentenced Persons agreements which Hong Kong has signed with 15 countries and Macau since 1997.

Transfer applications usually come from prisoners serving long sentences and the general principle behind them is that a transfer will aid a convicted person's ability to rehabilitate by placing them in a more familiar environment with access to their relatives.

But while the intention of the agreements may be laudable, the figures reveal that the implementation is anything but.

Despite having signed agreements with 15 countries and the Macau SAR since 1997, transfers in either direction have only been concluded with four jurisdictions, Macau, the United States, Australia and Britain, and a significant number of these were Hong Kongers jailed in near neighbor Macau.

The Philippines was one of the first countries to ink a transfer deal with Hong Kong – in 2002 – but not a single prisoner has moved in either direction.

More from the South China Morning Post:
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'Beyondevil and looking for an excuse': victims' families lash out atmurderer Rurik Jutting
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Fifty-five prisoners have been transferred in or out of Hong Kong over almost two decades. While no murderers have been transferred out of Hong Kong, two have come in from Macau.

Log-jams in the system are illustrated clearly in a letter received by This Week in Asia from a Hong Kong man serving a 40-year term in Manila's New Bilibid Prison accusing the Hong Kong government of inaction over other inmates' transfer applications.

Convicted drug trafficker Tang Lung-wai wrote: "The Security Bureau has never really cared about Hong Kong people who are locked up in the Philippines. I dare to say that they do not even know how many permanent Hong Kong citizens are serving prison terms in the Philippines.

"Why is it that the Hong Kong government would not fight for fairness and justice for the Hong Kongers? Assuming a situation when Hong Kong conducts an unfair trial for Philippine nationals, do you think that the Philippine government will not do anything in protest?"

Tang, now 45, said that the Philippine government required prisoners to pay off the fine slapped on them by the court before processing their transfer application. In his case, the fine is 500,000 pesos (HK$79,000). He did not know anyone who had managed to pay their fine. As his appeal application is still ongoing, he will have to wait for the result to see if he can file a transfer application. Tang said officials from the Chinese embassy in Manila visited him and other Chinese prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison in 2014. The officials told him they had asked the Hong Kong government if it was willing to pay the prisoners' fines so they could have their transfer applications processed. The answer was no, Tang wrote.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said it was handling seven transfer applications from Hong Kong residents sentenced in the Philippines and that the applicants were aged from 45 to 70 and serving 25 years to life in jail.

"The HKSAR Government has approached the Philippine Government a number of times to obtain the documents required for those cases. To date, we are still awaiting responses from the Philippine side," the spokesman said.

Controversy is not new to the system. In 2002, the disgraced son of Nigeria's top diplomat in Hong Kong, who was jailed for wounding an off-duty police officer in a Wan Chai bar brawl, was secretly released after serving less than three months of a two-year sentence.

The transfer was designed to allow Olusanmokun to serve the rest of his sentence in Nigeria. It was never confirmed that he did so. His release sparked anger from prisoners' rights groups and other Nigerians who have been seeking transfers for years.

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