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Hong Kong Customs detects first-ever money laundering case via transnational diamond trading

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-12-29 08:54

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong Customs on Thursday announced that it has smashed a large-scale transnational money laundering syndicate that had laundered about 500 million Hong Kong dollars (about $64 million), the first-ever money laundering case using transnational diamond trading detected by Customs.

A Customs spokesperson told a press briefing that Customs officers targeted a suspected transnational money laundering syndicate, initiated a financial investigation, and engaged in intelligence exchange with Indian Customs early this year.

The investigation revealed that the syndicate members established diamond trading companies in both Hong Kong and India. The syndicate was suspected to have exported synthetic diamonds of low value from Hong Kong to India, but lodged a false declaration as natural diamonds of high value in 2021 in a bid to transfer significant amounts of suspicious funds from India to Hong Kong. The total amount of suspicious transactions reached 500 million Hong Kong dollars in the cited period.

After an in-depth investigation, Customs officers conducted an enforcement operation codenamed "Gem Crusher" on Dec 19 and 20. Four persons, aged between 30 and 56, were arrested on suspicion of "dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence" (commonly known as money laundering) under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance. They were believed to be the masterminds, ring leaders and members of the syndicate. A total of 8.2 million Hong Kong dollars in assets under their names has been frozen.

Additionally, Customs officers seized a large quantity of suspected synthetic diamonds, a small quantity of natural diamonds, foreign currency cash equivalent to about 1 million Hong Kong dollars, a number of mobile phones, computers, company chops, chequebooks, bank cards, bank documents and trading documents inside the arrestees' residential and commercial premises.

The investigation was ongoing. The four arrested persons have been released on bail pending further investigation, and the likelihood of further arrests was not ruled out.

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