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Hong Kong arrests two in $446m money laundering case

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Hong Kong Customs has arrested two men involved in one of the city’s largest money-laundering case ever.

The case involved dealing in 8 tons of mainly gold and palladium valued at about HK$3.5 billion ($446 million) over a two year period, according to the agency. It was the largest ever amount among cases detected by Customs.

A 30-year-old and a 48-year-old were arrested last week in connection with suspected money laundering as authorities searched homes, two secretariat companies, a precious metal firm and a local foreign exchange shop.

The suspects allegedly sold metals and transferred money to companies in mainland China or offshore shell accounts, Rita Li, the head of Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau of Customs, said at a press conference Wednesday.

The Customs found no evidence that the two men were acquaintances, but they engaged with the same security company which could indicate a syndicate, Li said. The suspects were released on bail while the investigation continues.

“Precious metals are high in value and small in size, and are still allowed to be sold anonymously in the city,” Li said.

Officials are investigating whether the metals were smuggled into the city before being stored in vault of a security firm in the city’s Hung Hom district, the South China Morning Post reported. The men operated through shell companies, recording hundreds of transactions even though there was no evidence of them running any businesses, according to newspaper. The biggest single transaction was HK$28 million, the SCMP said.

Just last month, Hong Kong authorities arrested four suspected triad gang members in connection with laundering HK$411 million in crime proceeds over two years.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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