A syndicate that made fake credit cards on the mainland and used them to shop in Hong Kong and Macau has been smashed following a series of raids in a cross-border operation.
Five suspected ringleaders - four Hongkongers and a Malaysian man - were among 19 people arrested in Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen, police said yesterday.
A senior police officer said the syndicate had been operating for about a year and could have cost the credit card industry hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.
In Shenzhen, police uncovered two underground operations and seized more than 2,000 finished and semi-finished credit cards and equipment.
Thirteen people, including four Hong Kong residents and five Malaysians, were nabbed in the city.
Three Malaysian couriers, suspected to have been hired to use the fake cards in the shops, were picked up in Hong Kong, while two Hong Kong couriers were caught in Macau.
"They bought goods like electronic products, luxury handbags, cosmetics and wine with fake cards," Superintendent Choy Wai-fu, of the Commercial Crime Bureau, said.
"The goods were then taken across the border and sold."
Choy said the credit cards were cloned with information stolen in Europe and the United States.
Couriers were understood to have gone to Shenzhen to pick up the cards.
The commercial crime bureau began investigating the syndicate late last year after arresting several Malaysian couriers with fake credit cards in Hong Kong.
As intelligence showed the cards were made in Shenzhen, Hong Kong police exchanged information with mainland authorities and then sought help from the Macau Judiciary Police.
The key players and the two clandestine card-making workshops were identified after a six-month probe and surveillance.
Officers arrested 16 men and three women in raids in Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen between Monday and Wednesday. The arrests included six Hongkongers.
It was the first such joint operation in the past few years.
The case comes just months after police seized 9,000 unfinished fake credit cards in a raid on a Kwun Tong flat, the largest haul of its kind in a decade.
Two people were arrested.
The cards carried the names and logos of a variety of international and Hong Kong banks.
Police said the cards were probably smuggled into Hong Kong from the mainland.