Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested four people suspected of money laundering a total of $155 million through cryptocurrency wallets and bank accounts. The city’s customs agency said this was its first case in which virtual money had been used to launder dirty cash.
Money Laundering Syndicate Recycles $155 Million in Crypto and Fiat Transactions
The criminal group is believed to have processed illegal funds for a total of 1.2 billion Hong Kong dollars ($155 million), Hong Kong Customs announced Thursday. In an operation code-named “Coin Breaker,” officers detained the suspected ring leader and three other residents of China’s special administrative region.
The money laundering syndicate started its criminal activities last year and has been using three shell companies. The entities opened e-wallet accounts with an unnamed digital asset platform to trade the stablecoin tether (USDT). Authorities think the mastermind of the scheme convinced the other individuals to register as executives of the three firms.
“Our investigation revealed that the syndicate laundered about HK$880 million ($113 million) through the cryptocurrency between February 2020 and May 2021,” said Senior Superintendent Mark Woo Wai-kwan of the Customs’ Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau. Quoted by the South China Morning Post, the official added that the coins involved in the transactions came from around 40 e-wallet accounts.
According to Superintendent Grace Tang Wai-ngan, 150 million Hong Kong dollars’ worth of crypto from the total amount was transferred to more than 20 e-wallets. The remaining 730 million Hong Kong dollars were cashed out and the money was deposited into eight bank accounts owned by the three shell companies.
Around 500 cryptocurrency transactions passed through the firms’ wallets in just six months, she explained. These transactions averaged 400,000 coins, or more than 3.1 million Hong Kong dollars (about…