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Hong Kong police arrest 7 for money laundering HK$111M, including via crypto

Hong Kong arrests 7 for money laundering HK$111M

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TL;DR

  • Hong Kong authorities reported the apprehension of seven individuals believed to be involved in an operation to launder over HK$111 million, including through crypto.
  • Inspector Li Chi-pang noted that some funds were withdrawn as cash and used for cryptocurrency purchases.

Hong Kong authorities reported the arrest of seven individuals believed to be involved in an operation to launder over HK$111 million (US$14 million) of suspected illicit funds. This action was part of a larger effort to dismantle a criminal syndicate. Among the detained individuals, two men and five women were allegedly key figures within the syndicate, and the police indicated that the individuals held bank accounts to receive and manage funds acquired through fraudulent activities.

Hong Kong police discover crypto’s use in money laundering 

According to Inspector Li Chi-pang from the Financial Intelligence and Investigation Bureau of the police force, the illicit gains were funneled through bank accounts to create additional layers of transactions, thereby complicating the tracing of the funds by law enforcement. He further noted that a portion of the funds was withdrawn as cash and used for purchasing cryptocurrency, all to obscure the origins and movement of the criminal proceeds.

Li emphasized that officers are actively investigating where the illegal funds eventually end. The police disclosed that the money-laundering syndicate began recruiting individuals in 2022, compensating them with varying amounts of Hong Kong dollars to establish bank accounts. Those recruited by the criminal group were required to relinquish their account details, including passwords and bank cards.

As revealed by Li, their investigation revealed that the syndicate successfully laundered over HK$111 million in suspected illicit gains across 48 accounts between October of the prior year and June of the current year. He also highlighted that HK$4.17 million of these funds were associated with 21 cases of deception reported in Hong Kong. These cases, contributing to a total loss of HK$13 million, involved seven instances of online romance scams, twelve incidents of fraudulent investment schemes, and two phone-based scams.

Hong Kong crypto-related scams on the rise

Financial losses from cryptocurrency-related scams in Hong Kong saw a twofold increase, surpassing HK$1.7 billion (US$216.6 million) in the previous year. The surge was accompanied by a 67% rise in victims deceived into transferring digital assets to online fraudsters. The police force reported that there were 2,336 reported cases of cryptocurrency-related scams in Hong Kong during the past year, representing a significant 67% escalation compared to the 1,397 cases registered in 2021. 

Insider sources revealed that the police had observed a rise in the use of cryptocurrency as a tool for internet scams, with fraudsters exploiting the medium’s capacity to shield their identities during transactions and obscure the origin, movement, and eventual destination of their ill-gotten gains. The anonymity intrinsic to cryptocurrency trading was acknowledged as a factor that makes tracing money trails more challenging. 

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has issued a warning regarding virtual asset trading platforms that lack proper licenses and are involved in inappropriate practices. The SFC’s notice on August 7 highlighted that certain trading companies have falsely asserted that they’ve submitted license applications in Hong Kong. The regulatory body emphasized that if these companies were to pursue legal operations within the special administrative region genuinely, any deceptive statements could lead to potential criminal charges.

Several cryptocurrency companies like HashKey and OSL have obtained licenses through the SFC’s regulatory framework. That enables these platforms to provide a range of cryptocurrency-related services to residents in Hong Kong. Under the licensing system, crypto exchanges and service providers are obligated to guarantee secure asset storage and adhere to regulations including Know Your Customer (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), and measures to combat the financing of terrorism, among other requirements.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Yvonne Kiambi

Yvonne is a blockchain and crypto enthusiast. She is passionate about writing and looks to effortlessly guide readers through the exciting world of crypto. You'll find her immersed in a good book when she's not writing.

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