Hong Kong Customs have smashed a money-laundering syndicate and operations centre worth HK$6 billion – the highest amount on record among such cases, according to the department. They arrested nine people and have sought to freeze HK$16 million of assets following the operation at a residential premises on January 5.

Hong Kong Customs press conference on Operation Hornet on Wednesday. Photo: Customs.

“It was revealed that the syndicate members had opened a number of personal and company bank accounts in various local banks to deal with large amounts of money with unknown sources between 2020 and 2022,” Customs said in a Wednesday press release.

Three men and six women aged between 39 and 68 were arrested for suspected laundering under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance.

“The investigation also showed that the background and the financial status of the syndicate members were highly incommensurate with the large-value transactions recorded in their bank accounts,” Customs added. “They also rented a residential premises at a large private housing estate, which was suspected to be an operation centre for money-laundering activities.”

A licensed money changer, 10 residential premises and eight companies were raided, as officers seized around HK$3.9 million in cash, banknote counters, several mobile phones and computers, company chops, cheque books, bank cards and bank documents.

The nine were released on bail pending an investigation. The maximum penalty for laundering is HK$5 million and 14 years behind bars.

Support HKFP  |  Code of Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.

Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.