In this June 30, 2021 photo, signage is displayed outside the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department headquarters in Hong Kong. (ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP)
HONG KONG – Hong Kong Customs said on Saturday that four people have been arrested on suspicion of laundering some HK$600 million.
The men and two women, aged between 32 and 54, were suspected of using personal bank accounts since 2020 at various banks, including virtual banks, to launder hundreds of millions from unknown sources, a spokesman for the Customs and Excise Department said in a statement.
The operation took place after customs officers found that the background and financial status of the four locals were highly incommensurate with the large amount of suspicious transactions recorded in their personal bank accounts
The authorities have arranged to freeze a total bank balance of HK$1.7 million held by those arrested, the spokesman said.
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Customs officials mounted an operation codenamed "Eagle Net" on April 28 and raided four residential premises, five offices and two licensed money changers.
The operation took place after customs officers found that the background and financial status of the four locals were highly incommensurate with the large amount of suspicious transactions recorded in their personal bank accounts.
Apart from dealing with a large amount of money from unknown sources through local bank accounts, they also opened accounts at an overseas cryptocurrency exchange trading platform to deal with cryptocurrencies from unknown sources, the spokesman said.
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“Then they converted the cryptocurrencies into fiat currencies and remitted the suspicious funds out via local banks,” the spokesman added.
The four have been released on bail pending further investigation and the customs do not rule out further arrests.
The maximum penalty upon conviction of money laundering is a fine of HK$5 million and imprisonment for 14 years while the crime proceeds are also subject to confiscation, according to the government.