Hong Kong police on Friday launched a citywide search for a con man who used a safe equipped with two doors to dupe a mainland businessman out of HK$5.6 million (US$714,000).
The case came to light around 7.30pm on Thursday as police received a report of deception from the 37-year-old mainland native.
The merchant, who arrived from Shenzhen several days ago, took the money to the office of a jewellery company in Hunghom Commercial Centre on Ma Tau Wai Road, Hung Hom, soon after 4pm on Thursday to buy gold bars.
He reportedly also had two similar transactions with the company in August, involving more than HK$5 million in total.
Police said the merchant was taken to one of the rooms in the Hung Hom office where a middle-aged man sought to “help” him to handle the transaction.
“The victim was asked to hand over the money which was placed into a safe and locked,” an officer said.
“He was asked to wait in the room when the staff claimed he went to get the gold bars.”
When the staff did not return even after three hours, the merchant realised it was a scam and called police.
Police managed to unlock the safe, only to find it was empty.
The one-metre-tall safe had two doors on its two sides, and the back door was fixed to a wall that separated two rooms.
“We believe the staff went to the other room, unlocked the safe through its back door and fled with the money,” he said.
The staff is thought to be aged about 50 and of slim build. He was wearing a red shirt.
The officer said initial investigation revealed the company moved into the Hung Hom office a few months ago.
As of midday on Friday, the man is still on the run.
Two female employees and two other men, who worked as middlemen to help the company find customers, were in the office at the time of the incident.
The four Hong Kong residents, aged between 21 and 44, were taken to Kowloon City police station for questioning. Three of them were later allowed to leave. The fourth – a 21-year-old man – was arrested after it was found that he was wanted in connection with another deception case. He was granted bail pending further investigation.
Before lunchtime on Friday, a team of detectives from the Kowloon City criminal investigation unit visited the Hunghom commercial centre to check surveillance camera footage and gather evidence.