Hong Kong Arrests 7 for Alleged Role in $813M Money Laundering Case

Published: 21 January 2021

Hong Kong SkylineThe metropolitan area Hong Kong, home to 7.5 million residents. (Photo: Benh LIEU SONG, Flickr, License)

By Eli Moskowitz

Hong Kong police arrested seven former bankers on Tuesday who were allegedly responsible for laundering US$813 million of illicit funds into numerous local banks, the Commercial Crime Bureau confirmed to OCCRP in an emailed statement. 

As part of a sweeping operation known as “Overcloud,” the financial crimes unit of Hong Kong’s police force said they believed that they had “successfully dismantled a transnational economic crime syndicate,” and that had not ruled out the possibility of future arrests. 

According to their emailed statement, the arrested individuals – five men and two women in their mid thirties – are suspected of receiving payments in exchange for helping 16 mainland Chinese and foreign criminals open up 14 company accounts at a series of local banks, which were not disclosed to OCCRP.

Police said that nearly half a billion dollars was allegedly laundered through just one account between 2018 and 2019. 

They also said that they seized a number of computers, mobile phones, bank records and company documents, along with over a million dollars in cash at a public housing unit where one of the arrested suspects lived. 

If convicted, the accused money launderers could face a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail, along with a several hundred thousand dollar fine, the police said, adding that they encouraged the general public to avoid handling money from any unknown sources in order to avoid a similar fate. 

Chu Kin-wah, a senior police inspector said at a press conference that the money “was transferred into Hong Kong from all over the world including Italy, Vietnam and Germany, the South China Morning Post reported. 

Jodi Vittori, Research and Policy Manager at Transparency International Defense and Security, responded to the news on Twitter, saying that Hong Kong is “often overshadowed by more famous money laundering hubs like Dubai, the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, the U.S. and the U.K.,” but that it remains a leader for attracting illicit financial proceeds.  

Hong Kong ranks fourth in the world on the Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index and tenth on its Corporate Tax Haven Index.