Four women who used romance to swindle their victims were among 17 people arrested in a crackdown on a Hong Kong fraud syndicate that duped 56 people out of HK$20 million (US$2.6 million) over the past six months.
The gang recruited the women, who were taught how to lure their victims by dating them before convincing them to make bogus investments, mostly in bullion or cryptocurrency, police said on Thursday.
Superintendent Chan Wai-kei of the commercial crime bureau said officers seized a script outlining the deceptive behaviour during a raid on the office of a company in San Po Kong purportedly controlled by the syndicate.
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“We believe the strategy was used to help the female suspects find their prey on dating websites,” he said.
One 61-year-old man, who holds an Australian passport and runs a food company in the city, was duped out of HK$12 million. Chan said other victims included a Korean and a Singaporean.
Police said the money never went to actual investments.
The victims realised they were swindled when they lost contact with the women, according to the force.
The gang also used a scam involving low-interest loans to cheat people. Criminals cold-called victims pretending to be bank staff offering a low-interest loan. They were lured into depositing 10 per cent of the amount into a bank account as surety. The victims later realised they were conned when they could not find the “bank staff”.
Police said 46 people fell victim to the low-interest loan scam.
After identifying key members of the gang, police raided more than 30 locations across the city, apprehending 12 men and five women on Wednesday and Thursday.
The suspects included the alleged ringleader and two core members of the syndicate, as well as the four women involved in the investment fraud. The other 10 were holders of bank accounts used to collect money from the victims.
Police froze bank accounts containing HK$3.3 million they suspected of being the proceeds of crime.
The 17 people were arrested on suspicion of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud. As of Thursday afternoon, they were still being held for questioning and had not been charged.
Police said the investigation was ongoing and further arrests were possible.
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