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Hong Kong Customs smashes money laundering syndicate with over $3.5 billion laundered
     ​Hong Kong Customs mounted an operation codenamed "Swirl" between April 26 and May 3 and successfully smashed a money laundering syndicate. Four local men and four local women aged between 24 and 68, one of whom was a core member of the money laundering syndicate suspected to be connected with the case, were arrested. They were suspected of using a number of company bank accounts in various local banks to deal with money from unknown sources exceeding $3.5 billion between 2021 and 2022. Customs has arranged to freeze a bank balance of about $2.7 million held by the syndicate.

     Acting upon intelligence, Customs officers targeted five local persons, including a married couple, and initiated a financial investigation. It was revealed that the five persons set up a number of local companies and opened a number of company bank accounts to deal with nearly 2 000 suspicious transactions involving about $2.9 billion between May 2021 and October 2022. Their background and financial status were highly incommensurate with the suspicious large-value transactions recorded in their company bank accounts. Subsequently, Customs conducted an enforcement operation on April 26 and raided four residential premises and four companies. The five local persons aged between 36 and 68, comprising three men and two women, were arrested for suspected "dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence" (commonly known as money laundering) under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO).

     After a follow-up investigation, Customs officers found that one of the arrested local men was a core member of the money laundering syndicate. Apart from recruiting his wife to participate in money laundering activities, he also recruited another three local persons to set up local companies and open company bank accounts to deal with suspected crime proceeds involving around $600 million in total. The background and the financial status of the three persons were highly incommensurate with the suspicious large-value transactions recorded in their company bank accounts. Customs immedicately mounted an enforcement operation and raided three residential premises and three companies. The three local persons aged between 24 and 37, comprising one man and two women, were also arrested for suspected money laundering.

     During the two raid operations, Customs officers also seized a batch of items suspected to be involved in the case, including a number of mobile phones, company documents, company chops, bank account statements, cheque books and bank cards.

     An investigation is ongoing. The eight arrested persons 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 or company bank accounts to deal with money from unknown sources, regardless of whether a monetary reward is involved.

     Under the OSCO, 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/Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:05
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