Hong Kong arrests 7 people in a $1.8 billion money laundering case linked to the transnational crime

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong customs officials have arrested seven people linked to the territory's largest-ever money laundering case, involving about HK$14 billion ($1.8 billion) some of which is linked to a fraud case in India.

Customs officials said on Friday that the seven local residents, aged between 23 and 74, were part of a large-scale cross-border gang that used front companies and various bank accounts to transfer large sums of money from abroad to the city under the guise of running international business. .

One account received up to HK$100 million ($12.8 million) in one day, they said.

HK$2.9 billion ($371 million) of the total is suspected to be linked to a fraud case involving a mobile app in India, said Ip Tung Cheng, head of the Customs Financial Investigation Bureau. But she didn't mention what application it was.

She added that some of the detainees were non-Chinese residents of Hong Kong, without providing details.

Ip said authorities believe the syndicate received financial transfers from India in the name of exporting electronic devices, diamonds, gemstones and precious metals. The proceeds were then transferred to bank accounts in Hong Kong for money laundering.

“This money laundering business provides a protective umbrella for criminals’ illicit profits,” she said.

Ip said law enforcement authorities in Hong Kong, India and elsewhere cooperated in carrying out the operation, enabling its success.

Officers shared intelligence with Indian authorities and found that some of the money came from two jewelry companies that Indian authorities said were linked to the scam, said Yeo Yeo Wing, the bureau's section commander.

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It added that a 34-year-old Hong Kong resident, who was arrested in late January, is suspected of being the mastermind of the gang.

Officials seized electronic devices, documents and more than 8,000 carats of suspected synthetic gemstones that appeared to be intended for export to India.

The investigation was ongoing.

The previous record money laundering case involved about HK$6 billion ($767 million) and the arrest of nine people in January 2023.

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