Hong Kong police arrest 7 after dozens of victims are cheated in scams involving bogus low-interest loans

·3-min read

Hong Kong police have arrested seven people in connection with scams involving fake low-interest loans, which resulted in total losses of HK$2.8 million (US$359,000) for 48 victims.

The six men and a woman, aged 20 to 38, were holders of bank accounts that were used to collect the proceeds of crime, Chief Inspector Mok Tsz-wai of Kowloon East regional crime unit said on Thursday.

“The proceeds of crime that each account handled ranged from HK$47,000 to HK$1.26 million,” he said.

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Mok said the investigation suggested the suspects were recruited by the same fraud syndicate and paid between HK$3,000 and HK$5,000 each to surrender their bank accounts, which were used to collect money scammed from the victims.

Officers swooped into action and arrested the seven suspects in a series of raids between Tuesday and Thursday Photo: Warton Li
Officers swooped into action and arrested the seven suspects in a series of raids between Tuesday and Thursday Photo: Warton Li

Officers said they believed the money was then withdrawn from the accounts via bank ATMs.

The seven suspects were detained on suspicion of obtaining property by deception, an offence that is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

Mok said they could also face prosecution for money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison and a HK$5 million fine.

According to police, con artists posed as employees of local banks or financial companies, cold-calling their targets to offer the loans.

Senior Inspector Lau Kai-yin said fraudsters persuaded victims to pay a surety to secure the low-interest loans and then instructed them to transfer the money into a designated bank account.

“The victims were told they would secure their loans in higher amounts if they could put in more money for surety,” he said.

Mok said the victims were told the surety money would be returned to them once their loans were approved. In fact, the money went straight into the scammers’ hands.

According to the force, some victims were even persuaded to go to legitimate financial institutions to take out real loans to pay the sureties for the bogus low-interest ones.

Mok said one victim – a 22-year-old postsecondary student – wanted HK$100,000 in a so-called low-interest loan, but was coaxed into borrowing HK$400,000 from 30 money lenders in one year.

He said she eventually failed to secure the low-interest loan, but ended up with HK$400,000 in debts. She realised she had been conned when she discussed it with her family.

Mok said swindlers sometimes used gifts such as a mobile phone or tablet computers to lure victims into paying more money in surety.

Police said 48 victims, aged 22 to 71, filed police reports between March 2020 and September 2021. They included students, housewives, decoration workers and businessmen.

After gathering evidence, officers from the Kowloon East regional crime unit swooped into action and arrested the seven suspects in a series of raids across the city between Tuesday and Thursday. Four of them are suspected triad members.

During the operation, code-named “Doubleroute”, officers seized mobile phones, bank cards and relevant documents.

Officers are still trying to track down another two account holders in connection with the cases and those who recruited the suspects.

The seven suspects have been released on bail pending further investigation.

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