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Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Twenty-two arrested in HK and Macau for laundering HK$2.2bn in crime proceeds

Police in Hong Kong and Macau together smashed a cross-border money laundering syndicate and arrested 22 people in total for laundering over HK$2.2 billion in crime proceeds.
Hong Kong police arrested 11 men and six women aged 25 to 60 in Kowloon and New Territories on Tuesday as Macau police arrested five aged 23 to 37, including two Hongkongers and one mainlander holding a two-way permit.

The suspects were reportedly makeup artists, housewives, clerks, and construction workers. Police during the operation seized about HK$300,000 in cash and 52 ATM cards.

Chief inspector Cheng Sze-wai of the police's Financial Intelligence and Investigation Bureau said the suspects coaxed their relatives into opening large numbers of Hong Kong bank accounts with monetary incentives of at least HK$10,000 and handed the accounts to the syndicate to control as stooge accounts.

Most members of the syndicate were in Macau, and they collected crime proceeds through online banking and transferred the sums between the stooge accounts back and forth to step up the difficulty of record tracking for law enforcement.

The suspects also cashed out huge sums in Macau using the ATM cards to avoid banks' inspection. Investigation at this stage showed that the syndicate handled over HK$2.2 billion of crime proceeds in 18 months from October 2020 to March this year using at least 181 bank accounts.

The proceeds involved up to HK$84 million of losses in at least 32 scams that occurred in Hong Kong, Cheng added, involving five men and 21 women aged 25 to 67.

Senior inspector Chan Hok-lun added that transactions of HK$1.1 billion were recorded in those stooge accounts. He continued that the scams included 15 fake “mainland officials” scams, six investment scams, five online romance scams, and an email scam.

In one case, a biotech company lost up to HK$1.1 million while a housewife lost HK$14 million in another, Chan noted.

The investigation is ongoing, and the police haven't ruled out more arrests.

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