Hong Kong Customs smashes money laundering syndicate and detects money laundering case involving over $400 million

1 Sep 2022

​Hong Kong Customs mounted an operation codenamed "Moon Shadow" on August 29 and successfully smashed a money laundering syndicate. Meanwhile, the amount involved in the case has reached $411 million. Four men, aged between 21 and 36 and suspected to be connected with the case, were arrested.

Acting upon intelligence, Customs officers detected a money laundering case with arrests of one man and one woman involved with the case at the end of last year. After an in-depth investigation and fund flow analysis, Customs found that another three local men, who were all aged 21, opened 64 personal accounts at various local banks (including virtual banks) within one year's time since October 2019. From 2019 to 2021, they made over 9 000 suspicious transactions involving $411 million in total.

Moreover, one of them opened an account on a virtual currency exchange trading platform to deal with virtual currency from unknown sources, while another man dealt with suspected crime proceeds involving a closed local money changer.

The background and financial status of the three men were highly incommensurate with the large-value transactions under their personal bank accounts. Customs subsequently mounted an enforcement action on August 29 and raided four residential premises in Sau Mau Ping, Yau Tong, Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai. Those three men were also arrested.

After a follow-up investigation, Customs officers further arrested a 36-year-old local man in Tai Kok Tsui who was suspected to be the mastermind of the money laundering syndicate. He recruited the three men, who were arrested, to open personal bank accounts for dealing with suspected crime proceeds.

Apart from arresting the four men suspected to be connected with the case for "dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence" (commonly known as money laundering), Customs officers also seized a batch of items involved in the case, including two computers, mobile phones, bank account statements and bank cards.

An investigation is ongoing. The four arrested men have been released on bail pending further investigation, and the likelihood of further arrests is not ruled out.

Customs reminds members of the public that they may risk committing the crime of money laundering if they use personal bank accounts to deal with money of unknown sources, regardless of whether a monetary reward is involved.

Under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance, a person commits an offence if he or she deals with any property knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that such property in whole or in part directly or indirectly represents any person's proceeds of an indictable offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $5 million and imprisonment for 14 years while the crime proceeds are also subject to confiscation.

Members of the public may report any suspected money laundering activities to Customs' 24-hour hotline 2545 6182 or its dedicated crime-reporting email account (crimereport@customs.gov.hk).

Ends/Thursday, September 1, 2022

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