Seventeen arrested for HK$97m virtual money laundering
Police arrested 17 people on Wednesday and Thursday for conspiracy to commit money laundering, luring citizens to open virtual bank accounts, and controlling them to whitewash up to HK$97 million.
Officers from the East Kowloon regional crime unit mounted Operation ICESCROLL over the past two days and arrested nine men and eight women, aged 26 to 67, throughout the city.
The arrestees included transport workers, waiters, housewives, and jobless people. Some were reportedly members of triad society. They were all released on bail and must report to the police in mid-June.
According to senior inspector Tuen Yuk-hang, the syndicate lured citizens to register multiple virtual bank accounts with up to HK$1,000 of monetary benefit and gained control over the accounts with the login details.
The arrestees then made over 1,000 small-numbers transactions every day, involving over HK$100,000, between the virtual bank accounts and transferred the sum to accounts of other physical banks before cashing out.
Tuen added that officers seized a batch of electronic devices used to control the accounts and relevant bank statements. As a result, he believed police successfully smashed a money-laundering syndicate active in East Kowloon.
Chief inspector Lau Ho-tak continued that further investigation revealed that the sum involved illegal gambling activities, loans, and online shopping scams.
Lau pointed out that the investigation into the source and flow of the money is still ongoing and more arrests may be made.
He also said the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has stringent anti-money laundering guidelines for both traditional banking and virtual banking and reminded that the authority will enforce the law in close liaison with the police.