Hong Kong police bust a crypto money-laundering scheme worth $155 million

July 15, 2021, 5:15 AM UTC

Hong Kong authorities arrested four men for a suspected money-laundering syndicate involving HK$1.2 billion ($155 million) with virtual currency.

Operation “Coin Breaker” was launched on July 8, and the men aged between 24 and 33 have been arrested, according to a statement from Hong Kong Customs. The men opened various local bank accounts and made transactions through a virtual currency exchange trading platform, the statement said. The suspicious funds were processed via bank remittances and virtual currency from February 2020 through this May, according to officials.

Head of Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau of Customs Mark Woo confirmed the virtual currency involved was the stablecoin Tether, in a briefing with reporters. About HK$880 million of the sum involved crypto trading in around 40 e-wallets, and five premises were searched in the operation, officials said at the briefing. The four men arrested are all on bail now.

Hong Kong Customs did not name the trading platform or the banks involved.

This was the first time Hong Kong Customs detected a money laundering case with cryptocurrency, its statement said.

The former British colony has tightened its oversight on cryptocurrency trading and requires all platforms to register with a local watchdog, and be subject to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing rules. They can only serve professional investors not retail traders, according to a government announcement in late May.

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