HK police arrest 14 people in crackdown on HK$300 million money-laundering gang

03-Dec-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong police have arrested 14 people and frozen about HK$70 million (US$9 million) in bank accounts in a clampdown on a triad-controlled money-laundering syndicate that washed more than HK$300 million of illegal funds in less than two years.

A force insider said on Thursday that officers were trying to track down the remaining HK$230 million, which is believed to have been funnelled out of the city and transferred into mainland Chinese bank accounts.

The detained 11 men and three women included four suspected Sun Yee On triad members who were the alleged core members of a local money-laundering ring, according to the source. The four gangsters included a Ukrainian and a Pakistani who hold Hong Kong identity cards.

The other 10 suspects were the holders of stooge bank accounts used to launder illicit funds, said acting chief inspector Sung Ka-wai, of the financial intelligence and investigation bureau.

He said investigation suggested the seven men and three women had each been offered monetary rewards of between HK$500 and HK$5,000 to open personal and business bank accounts that were used by the syndicate to collect illegal funds and launder the cash.

The syndicate used a Yau Ma Tei guest house as the registered address of those bank accounts, he said, adding that one of the core members worked there as a manager.

“The investigation reveals that between January of 2020 and November of 2021, the syndicate used more than 60 bank accounts to launder at least HK$300 million in the proceeds of crime,” the acting chief inspector said.

Sung said police were investigating both the original sources and final destinations of the illicit money.

He said the HK$300 million included about HK$40 million connected to 24 fraud cases reported in the city and abroad. Among the cases were phone, romance and investment scams.

In one of the 15 local fraud cases, a 66-year-old retiree was in February conned out of HK$10 million by phone scammers who posed as mainland officials. The other nine crimes were reported overseas.

After identifying the core members and holders of the stooge bank accounts, officers carried out a series of raids across the city on Wednesday, arresting the 14 suspects on suspicion of money laundering.

During the operation code-named “Silveraxe”, officers seized mobile phones and dozens of bank cards as well as bank documents.

As of Thursday afternoon, the suspects, aged between 20 and 59, were still being held for questioning and none of them had been charged.

Police said the operation was continuing, with further arrests possible.

Senior Inspector Yeung Chin-wing, of the same bureau, urged the public not to lend and sell their bank accounts or help others in handling money from unknown sources.

In Hong Kong, money laundering is punishable by up to 14 years in prison and a HK$5 million fine.


Category: Hong Kong

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