Hong Kong police have arrested 13 alleged members of a local syndicate behind the laundering of HK$1.4 billion (US$178.3 million) in suspected crime proceeds through shell companies’ bank accounts. The force on Friday said 11 men and two women were detained in a series of raids across the city on Wednesday and Thursday, comprising three suspected core members of the syndicate and 10 bank account holders who allegedly helped by handling the crime proceeds. Senior Inspector Lo Chun-hei of the police’s financial intelligence and investigation bureau said inquiries had indicated the group had laundered the illegal proceeds through 20 bank accounts between September 2021 and May 2022. Some HK$81 million of the funds were linked to 17 deception cases reported in Australia, Europe and the United States, with the money transferred to bank accounts in Hong Kong. The suspected crime proceeds included cash from eight online email scams and two investment frauds. “The victims were individuals and companies and they were cheated of sums ranging from HK$30,000 to HK$18 million,” Lo said. Hong Kong police break up loan scam syndicate, arrest 22 According to the force, the syndicate used the money to lure local residents into setting up shell companies and bank accounts for laundering the crime proceeds. “The investigation suggested those who were recruited by the syndicate were paid between several hundred dollars to tens of thousand dollars each,” the senior inspector said. Lo said the bank accounts controlled by the syndicate’s core members were used to collect and launder the money generated from various types of scams. Officers spent the past few months gathering intelligence and investigating before swooping into action to arrest the suspects, who are aged between 28 to 52. Among those arrested were a decoration worker, a chef, a driver, as well as several jobless residents. The group was detained on suspicion of conspiracy to launder illegal proceeds, an offence punishable by up to 14 years in jail and a HK$5 million fine. 4 in Hong Kong arrested over HK$600 million money-laundering case As of Friday afternoon, all the suspects were still being held for questioning and had not been charged. Lo said police were investigating the source of the money, final recipients of the funds and the types of illegal activities that had generated the proceeds. He said the investigation was still under way and more arrests were possible. Police urged the public not to lend or sell their bank accounts or e-wallets to others for handling money from unknown sources, warning that those who did could be prosecuted for money laundering. This was the sixth money laundering syndicate uncovered by local authorities since April. Between April 28 and June 15, police and customs officers broke up five syndicates involved in the laundering of about HK$5.75 billion in suspected crime proceeds. The city’s largest case – involving HK$13.1 billion – came to light in 2012 with the arrest of a 22-year-old man from mainland China, who laundered money by making 4,800 deposits to his bank accounts between August 2009 and April 2010. The man was sentenced in January 2013 to 10½ years in jail.