Hong Kong Customs smashed a suspected syndicate laundering overseas criminal proceeds and arrested 23 local men (aged 25 to 47) on suspicion of "conspiracy to launder money", including two 35-year-old syndicate masterminds, two core members and two company directors . In early January this year, Customs found a group of local men who frequently took international flights to and from Istanbul, Turkey. Every time they returned to Hong Kong, they declared that they represented two Turkish companies and brought in cash ranging from US$1.3 million to US$5.34 million. It is understood that the men said that the relevant cash was used for jewelry and diamond trade, but they could not explain the company's local business and the flow of relevant funds.
The Customs Organized Crime Bureau's Wealth Investigation Section immediately launched an investigation and identified 11 relevant passengers. They usually travel together in two people and carry a very small amount of personal luggage when returning to Hong Kong. They only carry a large amount of packaged US dollar cash in handbags or backpacks , and waited for the notice after arriving in Hong Kong, and then brought the cash to the parking lot of the airport passenger terminal building, and handed it to the accomplice to take away the money. The relevant funds were then transported to the commercial units registered by two shell companies in Tsim Sha Tsui, but the related companies reported that they traded in electronic products or household goods, and had nothing to do with the trade of jewelry and jade, and there was no evidence that they had any business with the two Turkish companies come and go.
Customs discovered on the 24th of last month that two of the men were about to arrive in Hong Kong in the evening, and immediately deployed them at the airport and urban areas. After the two men got off the plane, they declared to the customs officer that they were carrying US$5.34 million in cash, and then handed over the money to the three joint members. Customs officers then raided a commercial unit in Tsim Sha Tsui in the early hours of the 25th, and found that the three joint members were counting and repacking the batch of cash. They were arrested and taken away, and a total of US$5.34 million in cash was seized , a large number of empty suitcases, rucksacks, money counting machines, computers, mobile phones and bank account receipts and other evidence. The two men who arrived in Hong Kong were subsequently arrested in Tai Wai and Fanling.
Huang Zhenfu, commander of the wealth investigation team of the Customs Organized Crime Investigation Division, pointed out that after follow-up investigations by the customs, other people involved in the case have been arrested one after another. It is believed that the two masterminds manipulated 11 local men and paid thousands to tens of thousands of yuan. Most of them were between 20 and 30 years old when they returned to Hong Kong with huge sums of money. They were reported as unemployed, clerks, insurance brokers and salespersons, etc. Some of them had criminal records. The arrested persons also included a group of members responsible for handling cash. They did not know each other with the members who brought the money to Hong Kong. It is believed that they were deliberately recruited by the mastermind to reduce the risk of being traced.
According to the Customs, the group has been active since the beginning of January this year. Up to the day of the operation, a total of 41 declarations were made to bring in large amounts of US dollars. The amount involved reached 91 million US dollars (about 750 million Hong Kong dollars). 22 declarations are made within one month. Whenever a group of people arrives in Hong Kong with money, the mastermind will arrange for the next group of people to leave the country. Customs also revealed that the group often switches the vehicles used to deliver the money, and switched to another commercial unit in the same district to handle the money in early April in order to avoid detection. The source and whereabouts of the funds involved in the case are still under investigation, and it is not ruled out that they will flow to money changers or other countries for further processing. Customs has exchanged information with international agencies and assisted the relevant Turkish authorities in the investigation. All arrested men have been released on bail pending further investigation.