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Hong Kong police have rounded up 11 men in a crackdown on a cross-border syndicate with a suspected laundering amount of HK$119 million over two months.
According to the police statements from Thursday (30 March 2023), 11 suspects were arrested for handling scam proceedings in the cross-border syndicate operation. The suspected amount laundered by the group is HK$119 million (US$15 million). Out of eleven members, nine were arrested for using debit cards to process illegal funds. They purchased 11 timepieces worth HK$3 million from a local shop. The other two members were the employees of two goldsmith shops in the new territories. They were put into custody on Wednesday as the investigation suggested that they were aware that the transactions processed were linked with criminal proceedings.
As per the police statements, the Hong Kong arrests were part of a joint operation with mainland authorities. Chan Hok-lun, the acting chief inspector of the financial intelligence and investigation bureau stated that the syndicate used over 90 bank accounts in mainland China to transfer HK$119 million generated from about 680 phone scams in February and March.
All the telephone deception cases occurred in the mainland including investment fraud, fake-official scams and “guess-who-I-am” cons, he added. The inquiries revealed that the group first hired people to set up bank accounts in the region, and then used them to receive scammed money. The racket forced the account holders to hand over the debit card details to the syndicate, which passed them to the core members in Hong Kong.
Chan added that the syndicate members in the city laundered illegal cash by purchasing different items including luxury watches, mobile phones and gold ornaments with debit cards in local shops. They then cashed these products by selling them so that law enforcement authorities cannot trace the money.
Lo Chun-hei, the senior member of the same department stated that the syndicate deployed lookouts when shopping and had a car ready to pick up the members right after the purchase.
After identification, police arrested 11 men in several raids. Five were the holders of two-way permits, the travel documents that are used to enter Hong Kong. The police seized HK$1.73 million in cash, 11 luxury watches (worth HK$3 million), two gold bars (worth HK$1 million), four gold ornaments (worth HK$100,000), 30 debit cards, and 18 mobile phones during the operation.
Chan stated that the investigations would continue and more arrests were possible. He urged the public to not sell or lend their bank accounts/e-wallets to others.