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Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022

16 held in $2.5b laundering bust

A syndicate engaged in at least 40 scams has been smashed following the arrests of 16 people for laundering HK$2.5 billion of funds suspected to be proceeds of crimes.
In the biggest con, a woman lost more than HK$7 million after receiving a phone call over a parcel, police said.

A senior inspector of the police’s financial intelligence and investigation bureau, Wong Sau-lok, said the syndicate had transferred money obtained from the scams across 136 “puppet accounts.”

Of the 15 men and one woman – aged 19 to 56 – arrested on Tuesday, seven were core members of the syndicate while nine were bank account holders.

The syndicate bought key information from the account holders, with rewards ranging from HK$1,000 to HK$2,500. “

With the economy affected by the pandemic, some people may have wanted to make quick money [by selling account information],” Wong said.

The money was eventually transferred to core members’ accounts and then withdrawn at ATMs. By the time police intervened, millions of dollars had been siphoned off.

Wong said the victim of the biggest scam had been approached by a person claiming to be a delivery company worker, who told her that her parcel came with identification documents that did not belong to her.

She was then referred to a person claiming to be a mainland official, who accused her of money laundering and demanded she transfer 3.65 million yuan (HK$4.28 million) to him.

The victim also gave the fraudsters her bank account details. She eventually found another HK$2.8 million had been taken from her account.

That came as the police said it had uncovered 2,585 online scams in the first four months of this year, with 56 percent of the victims being women.

The most common cases recently involved the purchase of concert tickets to local boyband Mirror’s shows.

Scams involving the purchase of beverages and mobile phones were also rife.

Separately, A 20-year-old woman lost HK$130,000 after being recruited as an “order handler.” The job profile claimed that she could get paid by simply clicking on online shopping platforms.

Police warned such job scams tend to lure people in with offers of quick and high incomes and work from home. If people see any suspicious info, they can contact the police’s anti-scam hotline at 18222.

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