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Hong Kong Police Arrest 6 Men and 14 Foreign Domestic Helpers in Major Money Laundering Crackdown

14 Female Domestic Helpers And 6 Men Arrested in Major Money Laundering Crackdown

HONG KONG – Hong Kong police have arrested 20 people in a crackdown on a syndicate that lured domestic helpers with as little as HK$1,000 (US$128) each to set up bank accounts for laundering criminal proceeds.

The force said on Monday that six of the suspects were Hong Kong men, while the other 14 were women from overseas working as domestic helpers. The helpers were allegedly paid between HK$1,000 and HK$2,500 each to open 17 bank accounts used to process HK$10 million in illicit funds.

“The amount is high when compared with the salaries of domestic helpers,” said Chief Inspector So Chi-ming of the Kowloon East regional crime unit. “That was the main incentive tempting them to sell their bank accounts.”

So added that the syndicate exploited the helpers’ desire for quick money and their lack of knowledge of Hong Kong’s laws, deceiving them into becoming “shields or scapegoats” for the money laundering operation.

Investigations revealed the syndicate used an overseas domestic worker as a recruiter to enlist other helpers. Meetings were arranged in locations like parks, fast-food outlets and even hotel rooms, where the gang used mobile apps to assist the helpers in opening the bank accounts while retaining control over the passwords.

“The gang used mobile applications to assist domestic workers in opening bank accounts … and retained control over the passwords of these stooge accounts,” said Senior Inspector Ng Ming-fung of the same police unit. This gave the syndicate the ability to manage and manipulate the funds.

Police said the 17 “stooge accounts” were linked to 39 cases of deception involving financial losses of HK$5.4 million, including online romance scams and e-shopping frauds. Last Saturday, police launched an arrest operation dubbed “Hoversmoke” and made the latest arrests in raids across the city.

The suspects, aged 29 to 63, were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to launder money, an offense punishable by up to 14 years in prison and a HK$5 million fine. Police said investigations were ongoing and further arrests were possible as they tried to trace the final destination of the illicit cash.

The Police would like to remind the public not to rent, borrow or sell their accounts (including bank, securities and stored value payment instruments accounts, etc.) to others, as the account holders may have committed the offence of money laundering if the accounts are used for illegal purposes.