Three men nabbed over HK$1.5m of illegal ATM withdrawals
Three Romanian men have been arrested on suspicion of withdrawing more than HK$1.5 million from automated teller machines with gift cards bearing magnetic strips encoded with stolen data, police say.
The three men, aged 27 to 35, were picked up after withdrawing money from an ATM at Pei Ho Street in Yau Ma Tei on Sunday night.
Commercial crime bureau officers found eight bogus cards and about HK$8,000 on the trio.
In their room in the Best Western Grand Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, police found over 750 fake cards and HK$1.5 million cash.
They also seized several laptops and an encoding machine. Police said the cards were gift cards with magnetic strips, obtained abroad and brought into Hong Kong. They were looking into whether all of them were encoded with stolen bank data.
"An initial investigation showed that stolen data was encoded on the cards with the encoding machine from the seized computer in their hotel room," an officer said. "They then used the cards to withdraw money from ATMs in the city."
Police believe the HK$1.5 million was the money the trio withdrew from Hong Kong ATMs since they arrived on May 2.
The three men apparently used the bogus cards to withdraw money only at nights or on public holidays to prevent the banks from immediately discovering the abnormal transactions.
The trio is believed to be part of a cashing crew from an international fraud syndicate. Officers are looking into whether they remitted money overseas.
The commercial crime bureau began its investigations after receiving a tip-off last week. The trio, arrested for theft, were held for questioning last night. None has yet been charged.
United States authorities last week revealed a global ring involved in a bank heist in which US$45 million was stolen from ATMs around the world within hours.
In New York alone, a team of eight people from the syndicate struck 2,904 machines over 10 hours on February 19, withdrawing US$2.4 million.
Police are investigating whether the three men are linked to the gang.