By Dan Byrne
Hong Kong police have arrested an entire family accused of laundering more than HK$3 billion (€326 million).
The group of five people – two parents (58 & 62), two sons (34 & 30) and a daughter (25) – were taken into custody in what the South China Morning Post describes as the biggest case of its kind in five years.
The family are said to have fraudulently handled vast sums of money through over 100 personal bank accounts. Authorities noted at least 6,000 suspicious transactions with the largest valued at almost HK$22 million.
The accounts were opened and used for transactions beginning in early 2018.
The owner of a money exchange company attached to the case has also been arrested.
Initial investigations into the family’s activities began after a tip-off from a bank associated with the family’s eldest son.
Authorities examining the case said that the family’s wealth did not align with their profiles and backgrounds. Both parents are unemployed, one son is a technician, the daughter is a customer service officer, and the other son is a manager at the money exchange company involved in the case.
Despite these positions bringing in a net HK$70,000 (€7,600) in monthly income, the family’s assets amounted to more than HK$45 million (€4.9 million), with two thirds of that in cash and the final third split across two properties.
“We suspect this family has a hidden income which may be the crime proceeds from assisting money laundering,” said Mark Woo Wai-kwan, senior superintendent at the Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau.
Mr Woo advised that the source of the funds and types of illegal activities had yet to be determined, but that shell companies were likely involved. The Morning Post separately reported that some of these companies may be based in mainland China.
Financial investigation group head Grace Tang Wai-ngan said the family employed a layered network of transfers to hide the identity of the owners and recipients of the funds involved.
Meanwhile, the arrest of the sixth man came after his money exchange company was found to have handled HK$140 million more than what it declared in end-of-year customs reports.
All six people have now been released on bail. Their assets have been frozen, while documents and computers belonging to them have been seized.
Under Hong Kong law, they may eventually face jail sentences up to 14 years and fines of up to HK$5million.
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