The police commercial crime bureau received 282 reports of money laundering cases in the first six months of this year. It represents an increase of 79 percent from last year’s 157 reports.
The police investigated nine cases involving serious and complex fraud involving amounts totalling HK$456 million. During the same period last year, the police investigated two cases involving a total of HK$56 million.
Brian Pau Siu-ming, acting superintendent of the police fraud division, told Ming Pao that more and more cases involved foreigners and the accounts used to launder money may have been opened as long as four years ago.
Kelvin Leung Tsz-kin, acting chief inspector of the bureau, told Apple Daily that local banks informed the police in 2012 that a criminal group was paying between HK$500 and HK$3,000 to attract foreigners from China, South East Asia and Eastern Europe to open accounts in Hong Kong. The groups were able to provide fraudulent bank records as proof of address.
“They give the online banking passwords and encryption key to the criminal group and leave Hong Kong,” Leung said.
He said the group opened more than 100 accounts to launder tens of millions of dollars, and that the police believed the money was related to multiple counts of fraud. The case was exposed after the same addresses were used repeatedly.
Leung added that 19 unemployed or low-income foreigners were arrested when they reentered Hong Kong. They were convicted of using false instruments, conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to launder money. By the time they were arrested, they had laundered tens of millions of dollars. They were sentenced to jail for a period between three months and three years.
The police arrested 13 people in other two cases. The most serious case involved $70 million and the suspect was jailed for seven and a half years.
Pau said that the police and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) regularly shared information on criminal groups. He urged people not to break the law out of greed.