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8 Filipinas, 4 Nigerians arrested in $12-million laundering scam

22 June 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Photo of ATM transactions made from an account used for money laundering

Eight Filipina domestic workers, four Nigerian men, a Nepali man and a local woman were arrested last week as Hong Kong police busted a syndicate that laundered $12 million derived from at least 30 online romance scams.

A police spokeswoman said all the suspects have been released on police bail and told to report back in mid-July. She said the investigation was continuing and did not rule out further arrests.

The arrested persons, aged 30 to 53, were arrested for money laundering and conspiracy to defraud, the police said.

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Police disclosed in a press conference yesterday that one of the Nigerians was the mastermind while the three others were core members of the syndicate. One of them is a recognizance holder while the three others are Hong Kong residents.

The Nigerians were arrested in Causeway Bay and Tai Kok Tsui. Several ATM cards owned by some of the helpers were seized from two of them, the police said.

The police seized $1.5 million in cash, phones, ATM, SIM and Octopus cards, and tools for authenticating bank passwords.


The eight Filipinas, who are all account owners, were manipulated to open 21 bank accounts that the scammers used for laundering $12 million that they fleeced from the romance scam victims, the police said.

The police said the scams took place between January and June, victimizing two local men and 28 women clerks, students, housewives and retirees aged 22 to 64.

The biggest loser was a female victim who claimed she had paid the scammers as much as $2.4 million.

Some Filipinas said they were taken to this bank branch by syndicate runners to open an ATM account

The conmen, introducing themselves as western businessmen, professionals or soldiers, pretended to send expensive gift packages to the victims. A few days later, a purported  delivery staff would call the victims, saying they need to pay several thousand dollars so Customs would release the package.


The caller gives the account number of a Filipina, who the syndicate has tricked into lending or surrendering her ATM card to them.

“The mastermind then moved the money to the bank account of the syndicate’s company and then multiple local and overseas bank accounts to launder the money,” Commercial Crime Bureau Senior Inspector Tang Kwok-hin was quoted as saying in a report.

Data from the Anti-Deception Coordinating Centre show there were 517 online romance scams in January-April, a 93.6% surge from 267 in the same period last year. The victims were cheated of a total amount of $196 million, up 140% from last year.

Bureau Chief Superintendent Lam Man-han was quoted as saying online banking and virtual currencies have made it more difficult to detect money laundering.

These virtual bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets are very easy to open. You don’t need face-to-face interaction with the account providers,” Lam said.

“It provides a very convenient and fast method… to do money transactions. It’s very difficult and complicated for us to trace the money.”

The Consulate said so far none of the arrested Filipinas has approached the assistance to nationals section for help or guidance. But previously, a number of Filipina domestic helpers had asked for help after being arrested for their suspected involvement in money laundering transactions.

In these cases, the Filipinas said they were tricked into opening bank accounts by people who offered parttime jobs, then took away their ATM cards, saying these would be used to pay them for their services.


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