A Filipino couple who allegedly used a recruitment agency to con HK$600,000 from more than 20 women to whom they promised fake jobs in Cyprus and Canada are being investigated by police.
Milagrous Natino Ipp, 56, ran Limestone Overseas Services and Trading with her partner Jose Haca, 61. The pair were arrested at the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal on March 9 for obtaining property by deception.
"They are suspected to have deceived over 20 foreign women, aged 30 to 48, by claiming to arrange jobs for them in overseas countries," a police spokesman said. "The victims had paid over HK$600,000 in total in administration fees.
"The two arrestees were released on [police] bail and are required to report back in early April for further inquiries."
A probe by the force's Eastern District crime squad is continuing, while the Labour Department is also investigating.
The department said 21 domestic helpers had reported signing contracts to start work in Cyprus last November.
One group was left stranded at the airport for three days after the agency allegedly kept delaying their flights. It eventually emerged they had no jobs on the Mediterranean island.
Ipp said delays were caused by some of the applicants pulling out, requiring documents to be reprocessed. She insisted the job offers were genuine.
An industry source with knowledge of the case said more victims had stepped forward to file fraud complaints against Ipp.
Some claim to have paid up to US$9,000 each for non-existent roles as poultry farm workers in Quebec, Canada.
Ipp and Haca reportedly fled to Macau last month to escape fraud complaints, vacating their two rented offices in the Bank Tower in King's Road, North Point, and a flat in the same district. The properties have been reclaimed by their owners.
The victims, who were either former domestic workers in Hong Kong or tourists, have now returned to the Philippines after filing complaints with the police or the Philippine consulate.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration is unable to act in the cases, as the illegal recruitment took place in Hong Kong.
However, the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines has promised to look into the cases, and establish if more help can be provided.