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Crime

Man, 45, and woman, 44, arrested in connection with money laundering of HK$620 million

  • The pair were arrested in a police raid on a home in Tin Shui Wai
  • A bank account linked to the two has been used to launder money garnered in scams and frauds overseas
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2018, 3:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2018, 11:13pm

A Hong Kong bank account was found to have been used to collect and launder HK$620 million (US$79.1 million) taken in scams in seven months this year, police said on Tuesday following the arrest of a local businessman and his female business partner.

The Post has learned that the two suspects – a 45-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman – are the proprietor of a small-scale interior decoration company, and a staff member, respectively.

“The male suspect is the holder of the bank account used to launder money procured by fraudulent means and the woman is authorised to operate the account,” a law enforcement source said.

According to police, the bank account had been used to launder HK$620 million between January and July this year.

‘Unverifiable’ data justified no money laundering alert, security chief says

“Initial investigations showed the swindled money was transferred into business bank accounts in Hong Kong that were suspected to have been opened to collect the illicit payments from overseas,” the source said.

“The money was then transferred into the male suspect’s account before being remitted to bank accounts in Europe and America.”

Police said about HK$88 million out of the illicit money was thought to have been linked to four reported cases of deception in Hong Kong and overseas that included two commercial email scams and investment frauds as well as computer hacking cases.

In the computer hacking case, the computer server of a bank in Chile was hacked and more than HK$80 million was transferred into bank accounts including the one held in Hong Kong by the male suspect.

Police were still trying to establish what other deception cases were linked to the rest of the illicit payments.

Officers from the force’s anti-deception coordination centre have helped some of the victims freeze HK$33 million in the bank account that had been open for less than a year, according to another source.

Dubai to Hong Kong, follow the money (laundering)

He said further arrests were expected as officers were trying to track down the holders of the other bank accounts involved in the money laundering case.

“We will also seek help from our overseas counterparts to trace the swindled money that had been channelled out of Hong Kong,” he said.

The source added that it was not the biggest amount a single bank account had been used to launder.

Police began investigating the pair after identifying suspicious transactions via the bank account about three months ago.

The two suspects were picked up in a police raid of a residential property in Tin Shui Wai at daybreak on Monday.

As of 1pm on Tuesday, the pair were still being held for questioning and had not been charged.

In Hong Kong, money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment and a HK$5 million fine under the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance.

The Post reported in August that thousands of Hong Kong bank accounts have been used by local and international fraudsters to collect and launder about HK$4 billion since July last year. Many account holders were mainlanders believed to have been recruited by underground money exchanges from across the border.

The anti-deception coordination centre was set up in July 2017 and has dealt with more than 1,500 requests to freeze money taken in scams. In this year’s biggest commercial email scam, the centre helped a Spanish company freeze HK$60 million after it was duped into transferring 11 million (about HK$100 million) to several bank accounts in Hong Kong in June and July.