Police have smashed a large-scale online prostitution ring that recruited as many as 100,000 members, including girls as young as 17 years old, and earned as much as HK20 million over the past five years.
A total of 23 people were arrested in the police operation over the weekend, including a man surnamed Fung, who is believed to be the mastermind of the syndicate, six women and two men who worked for him, and nine men and five women who participated in the “compensated dating” scheme, Sing Tao Daily reports, citing police officers at a media briefing on Sunday.
Police also confiscated computers, smartphones, bank statements, HK$50,000 in cash and two luxury vehicles, worth a combined HK$4.1 million and believed to have been bought with the syndicate’s earnings.
Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the New Territories North Regional Crime Unit said police last year received information about a website called “Hklovely Hong Kong Teenage Girl Forum” which allowed men and women to register for the purpose of having dates and later engaging in sex. He said the site became very popular in the city.
The investigation took several months and included undercover operations by a male and a female officer who posed as members of the group to collect evidence, and culminated in police raids over the weekend.
Evidence showed the website began operations in 2012 and its income came mainly from membership fees paid by male participants. Female participants were free to join.
There were three levels of membership, and the higher the level, the better the “quality” of women and benefits, and the more expensive the fees. Becoming a “sugar daddy” to a female member was also an option.
As the fees ranged from HK$400 to HK$1,500, the syndicate is estimated to have earned as much as HK$20 million over the last five years, Senior Inspector Ngan Hoi-ian said.
Most of the male members were middle-class workers or professionals, while some of the female members were still students, including a 17-year-old.
Police have requested assistance from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to shut down the website, which was registered and being managed overseas.
According to Apple Daily, Fung, the mastermind, had been arrested and convicted of running a similar website in 2015.
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