Five men have been arrested for money launder when trying to cross the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. Hong Kong customs officers claim that the men participated in operations that illegally transported over $22 million in cash that is believed to have been acquired through fraud. The case was reported by the Hong Kong Government itself.
A Big Step in Dealing with Smuggled Money
The reason for the arrest is handling “property believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offense” and acting against the protocols of the Cross-boundary Movement of Physical Currency and Bearer Negotiable Instruments Ordinance.
Senior Superintendent Mark Woo Wai-kwan spoke with South China Morning Post, explaining that this isn’t the first case of such criminal activity. However, it is the first major success against such criminal operations. “It is the first time Hong Kong customs has broken up a money-laundering racket that was involved in bulk cash-smuggling operations and the use of cross-border drivers,” he stated.
The South Chinese news outlet elaborated that the funds were probably laundered in casinos in Macau.
The Offense May Put the Men in Prison for 14 Years
The five men were arrested over the course of four days between August 19 and 23. All of them are in the age range of 40 and 43. Three of them were reported to be cross-boundary drivers, while the remaining two are currency exchangers.
Two of the criminals were arrested around the end of the previous week on their way back to Hong Kong. The duo then had only a fraction of the cash, estimated at $2.6 million. The money was tucked away in their vehicles, but was eventually found by the customs officers, leading to the arrest of the drivers. The source of the money is yet to be revealed by local investigators.
The men now face up to 14 years in prison and a fine of up to $640,000 for knowingly participating in the transfer of illegitimate funds.
Major Money-Laundering Crackdowns Continue
The men are believed to be a part of a larger illegal organization that is earning its pay through money laundering. The Hong Kong government first caught wind of it this May, and, since then, allegedly over 17 smuggling runs have been made, each one reportedly transferring $3.5 million in cash. The money-laundering syndicate likely has operators across Macau and Zhuhai, which is why Hong Kong appealed to the regions’ respective authorities to help crack down the illegal activities.
The Hong Kong government believes that with the help from Macau and Zhuhai more arrests will follow and will help to undermine the criminal syndicate.
Hong Kong has been recently having trouble with gambling-related criminal activity. The local police just busted a whole improvised underground gambling hall and arrested as many as 48 people.