Thirty-one people have been arrested in relation to an investment fraud where victims were lured into thinking they were trading gold on the London markets, falling prey to false claims.
The arrests were made in a big operation on Wednesday, involving nearly 300 officers who raided 27 residential units and eight commercial units in the city, authorities revealed.
The arrested suspects included 21 men and 10 women, aged between 18 and 53. Three of them were believed to be masterminds of the scam syndicate, while 10 of the women were self-claimed investment consultants, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Following the operation, police seized HK$2.5 million in cash and froze HK$37 million in the syndicate’s bank accounts. They also attached four luxury cars and took control of eight properties.
Some knives and expandable batons were also found in the units. There are suspicions that the weapons may have been used to threaten some victims.
Revealing details of the case, Marina Yin Hiu-yu, chief inspector of the Commercial Crime Bureau, said the syndicate specifically picked young and good-looking women to work for it, in the case that involved subsidiaries of two financial groups.
The women looked for victims through the WeChat messaging app, pretending to be interested in making friends with them and then ensnaring them gradually into parting with their cash.
After the victims fell for the sweet talk, the women, who often posted photos suggesting they were living an extravagant life, identified themselves as investment consultants and invited the victims to participate in “low-risk and lucrative” London gold investments.
Trusting the female online acquaintances, the victims, some of whom did not meet the “consultants” even once, signed documents to authorize the females to trade on their behalf or provided the women with information and passwords to their bank accounts.
It was only later that they discovered that they had been cheated, making them end up with huge losses.
Police investigations found at least 64 male victims, with their combined loss amounting to over HK$26 million.
Authorities believe there are more victims and the investment fraud could be on an ever bigger scale. Investigations are ongoing, and more than 20 suspects are still believed to be at large.
Yin reminded the public to be very careful when being approached for investment in London gold, which is not a regulated financial product in Hong Kong.
According to the officer, all the arrested 10 female “investment consultants” were found to be only secondary school graduates.
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