Hong Kong Customs detects first case of suspected HK$1.2 billion cryptocurrency-based money laundering
Published: Jul 15, 2021 02:23 PM
Hong Kong Special Administration Region Customs

Hong Kong Special Administration Region Customs

Hong Kong Special Administration Region Customs recently detected a suspected money laundering case based on cryptocurrency which involved a total amount of HK$1.2 billion ($154.50 million) and arrested four suspects, which was the first time that Customs has detected a money laundering case using cryptocurrency, Global Times learned from the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region on Thursday. 

The case was solved in a special operation codenamed "Coin Breaker" launched on July 8. Four men, aged between 24 and 33, suspected to be involved in the case were arrested during the operation for contravention of related financial regulation. 

Customs said on Thursday on a press release that they believed that a man who aged 33 was the de facto leader of the syndicate. He had recruited the other three men to open three shell companies with HK$10,000 to 20,000 monthly rewards, and asked one of them to open several accounts in various banks in Hong Kong and a local cryptocurrency exchange trading platform. 

A total amount of approximately HK$1.2 billion of suspicious money was found processed from January 2020 to May 2021, with a cryptocurrency named Tether. Hong Kong dollar cash and Tether were transferred from more than 40 unknown cryptocurrency wallets and nearly 100 personal and company accounts to the three shell companies, and were exchanged to cash then transferred to more than 200 bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets. 

The investigation remains ongoing. All arrested suspects have been released on bail pending further investigation. It is not ruled out that more people will be arrested. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of HK$5 million and imprisonment for 14 years while the crime proceeds are also subject to confiscation, said the Customs. 

Global Times