Police believe they have smashed a counterfeit credit-card syndicate that used personal data stolen in Europe, following the arrest of its suspected mastermind and a couple in North Point. Officers from the Commercial Crime Bureau seized 16 fake credit cards and 189 sets of personal data when they raided a flat in Tin Hau Temple Road, North Point, on Friday. Chief Superintendent Wong Fook-chuen said the syndicate bought the personal data for $2,000 to $3,000 per set. He said the data belonged to credit-card holders in Europe, including Holland and Portugal. Superintendent Wong said the syndicate bought a wide range of goods with the fake cards. The most expensive purchase was a pair of crocodile-skin shoes valued at $10,000. He said that banks had lost $73 million in 2001 from fake credit cards, but that the figure had dropped to $62 million last year, mainly because of police action. He said his men seized 1,179 fake cards in 2001, compared with 2,204 last year. Superintendent Wong said police officers launched an operation in April and identified a counterfeit credit-card operation in a Tin Hau Temple Road flat. Bureau officers moved in on the syndicate at about 2pm on Friday and arrested a 44-year-old man, the suspected mastermind, as he was leaving the flat. Seven fake credit cards and papers containing the details of more than 140 accounts were found in his possession. Officers subsequently raided the flat and arrested a couple aged 37 and 43. They found another nine counterfeit cards along with equipment used for making these cards, including one desktop computer, two encoders and documents containing the details of more than 40 credit-card accounts. Superintendent Wong said they also recovered goods worth about $150,000 in the 43-year-old man's car, which was parked in Dragon Road, North Point, and in his home in Tseung Kwan O. The officer said the fake cards were used to purchase clothes and accessories, handbags, jewellery, cosmetics, electronics, cigarettes and dried seafood. The alleged mastermind was last night charged with one count of possessing a false instrument, while the couple were charged with possessing equipment for making a false instrument. All three will appear in Eastern Court tomorrow.