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Scams and swindles

‘Goddaughter’ among five arrested on suspicion of duping Hong Kong woman, 70, of HK$68 million

Ringleader believed to be a ‘sweet-talker’ accused of persuading victim to invest in overseas properties, among other scams

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 8:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 10:59am

A businesswoman and four men have been arrested on suspicion of duping a 70-year-old Hong Kong woman out of HK$68 million since 2014 to make financial and property investments that never existed, according to police.

Officers from Central Police Station were investigating whether others had also fallen victim to the investment scam controlled by the 45-year-old Hongkonger, who runs a shell company in the city.

She is believed to be the ringleader of the pack, who were arrested over the past six days after the victim lodged a complaint with police last month. One of those arrested - an expatriate in the city - is the husband of the woman.

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Officers seized HK$1 million worth of personal property including watches, handbags, a painting and a car from the suspects but no money was retrieved.

“We believe the seized properties were bought with crime proceeds,” one police source said. He said the swindled money might have been moved out of the city.

Authorities said the four men, aged between 45 and 57, including one who worked as the businesswoman’s chauffeur, had been released on bail pending further investigation. They are required to report to police next month.

On Monday night, the female suspect was still being held for questioning and had not been charged.

A police source said the suspect was likely to be granted police bail as officers needed more time to gather evidence.

He said the woman was the “goddaughter” of the victim who knew her through friends in 2014.

Describing the female suspect as “sweet-talking”, the source said she was accused of persuading the victim to invest in properties in Europe and make financial investments through her company since February 2014.

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“The victim had been persuaded to make more than 10 payments involving HK$68 million in total,” he said. “Initial investigation showed all the investments did not exist.”

The scam was uncovered when the woman failed to contact the victim since August. She had been jailed for a separate deception case, another source said. The older woman realised she had been swindled and called police. The suspect was arrested in Lo Wu Correctional Institution on Monday.

After several weeks of investigation, detectives from the Central District crime squad made the other arrests of the men between Wednesday last week and Monday. All were detained for conspiracy to defraud.

One of the men was intercepted at Lok Ma Chau immigration control point on Friday when he returned from Shenzhen.

“We believe we have smashed the fraud syndicate in the operation,” a police spokesman said.

According to official statistics, police handled 5,879 reports of deception in the first 10 months of this year, down 2.7 per cent on the 6,044 in the same period last year.