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Scams and swindles

Scam duping 32 people out of HK$24.5 million leads to 15 arrests at Hong Kong investment company

One victim lost HK$7 million in ruse involving cold calls and promises of low-interest loans

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 6:18pm

Hong Kong police have arrested 15 people in connection with low-interest loan scams that duped 32 people out of HK$24.5 million (US$3.1 million) over the past 18 months.

The 11 men and four women were picked up when about 50 officers raided the investment company’s office in Tsim Sha Tsui on Tuesday.

Detectives from Yau Tsim district crime squad began investigating the firm several months ago after receiving complaints.

The victims, aged from 32 to 65, had received cold calls from a person pretending to be affiliated with a bank and offering them a low-interest loan, police said. They were then asked to visit the investment company to apply.

At the Tsim Sha Tsui office “they were asked to open an investment account and sign agreements authorising staff to control their accounts on their behalf,” detective inspector Andy Ho Sik-kong said. The victims were also promised that no investments would be made.

They were then asked to deposit money into an investment account, assured that it would be used as asset proof to apply for a low-interest loan.

The victims, who included merchants, realised they had been cheated after they were notified they had lost all their money in gold trading on the London market.

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To date, 32 victims have filed police reports involving the losses of HK$24.5 million in total, Ho said.

One of the victims lost HK$7 million.

During inquiries, officers learned the banks the scammers had claimed to work for had never called any of the victims nor offered such low-interest loans.

After months of investigation, officers from Yau Tsim district crime squad, the commercial crime bureau as well as the cybersecurity and technology crime bureau raided the firm’s Tsim Sha Tsui office on Tuesday and arrested 15 Hongkongers.

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Police said the 15, all investment company employees, had been arrested for conspiracy to defraud.

As of 3pm on Wednesday, all the suspects, aged from 18 to 30, were still being held for questioning. None had been charged.

Ho said the firm had been in operation for about 18 months. It was understood police were searching for its director and senior management staff.

It was possible more victims could come forward and that further arrests would be made, police added.