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Hong Kong secondary school pupils arrested over HK$1.8 million investment scam

One of the pupils was just 14 years old; he was among 10 people detained after ‘high return, low risk’ offers were posted on social media

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 8:36pm

Three secondary school pupils including one as young as 14, who are accused of running online investment scams that duped seven investors out of HK$1.8 million over five months, were among 10 Hongkongers arrested by police in a series of raids across the city on Wednesday.

The force believes scores of other victims did not report to police after they were prompted to make “high return, low risk” investments that never existed.

Initial investigations indicated the teenage boy duped about 50 victims out of HK$30,000 to HK$40,000 since March, according to police sources.

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The boy was picked up at his home in Wong Tai Sin after daybreak on Wednesday. Officers seized a computer and bogus documents at his home.

The other two alleged scammers were two female pupils aged 17 and 21, according to police.

“Investigations showed the three suspects worked individually and there was no indication to suggest they were controlled by a syndicate,” Superintendent Andy Chan Tin-chu of the commercial crime bureau said.

He believed the suspects copied online investment scams that were common overseas.

“Deception is a serious offence that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail,” Chan warned.

The other seven suspects arrested in the operation included a university student. They were holders of bank accounts used to collect money from the victims, according to police.

So far, seven victims had reported losses totalling HK$1.8 million, police said.

“The biggest loser was a woman in her 50s who lost HK$1 million. She was lured to invest after she learned her daughter invested about HK$5,000 and made a profit of more than HK$1,000 ,”one source said.

The 10 suspects – six men and four women aged between 14 and 72 – were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

Five computers, 11 mobile phones and a large quantity of bogus documents were seized.

Police said they were likely to be released on bail because officers needed more time to collect evidence.

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According to police, the three alleged scammers found their targets by leaving posts on social media sites such as Instagram highlighting “high returns, low risk” investments .

“Investors were promised returns of 30 to 40 per cent to be paid every one or two weeks,” Chan said.

The superintendent said the victims did not know what they were investing in.

“When the victims asked, they were told professionals were hired to handle their investments and they would be kept updated about the non-existent investments,” he said.

He said some victims were paid returns to prompt them to make further investments. They realised it was a scam when they invested more and lost contact with the scammers.

Police advised the public to discuss investments with family members and friends and to consult qualified professionals if necessary.