Hong Kong customs officials have announced the uncovering and dissection of a major cryptocurrency money laundering operation.
Officials in Hong Kong have discovered and broken up a cryptocurrency money laundering scheme that involved as much as $155 million in assets. The announcement by the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region states it is the first virtual currency money laundering case the officials have discovered.
Operation Coin Breaker
In what officials have dubbed “Coin Breaker” dozens of officers raided four residential buildings in Wong Chuk Hang, Prince Edward, Tuen Mun, and Tin Shui Wai. Four men were arrested during the raid, all of whom are suspected of being involved in the ring which had been under investigation since the beginning of 2021. The operation was carried out under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO) and charged each man with conspiracy to “deal with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offense.”
According to the official statement, the investigation uncovered that the four men arrested had each opened accounts at different Hong Kong banks and made several transactions via cryptocurrency exchanges. Between February 2020 and May 2021, suspicious funds of approximately $155 million involving bank remittances were found to be processed. Officials have not released the names of the banks or exchanges involved in the scheme. Bloomberg reports that Mark Woo, head of the syndicate crimes investigation bureau, confirmed that the currency involved was the stable coin Tether.
During the raid, computers, mobile devices, stacks of paperwork, and banking security tokens were all seized. This includes any business registration records, bank statements, and checkbooks discovered at the four locations targeted. Officials say the investigation is ongoing and all the arrested individuals have been released on bail pending investigation.
Under the OSCO, a person convicted of the crimes the men are facing comes with a maximum penalty of $5 million and up to 14 years in prison. All laundered funds would also be confiscated upon conviction.
Meanwhile, other countries have all recently dealt with similar issues surrounding crypto crimes. London police announced earlier this week a massive seizure of more than $400 million in cryptocurrency over the last month, including a $160 million bust, as part of a money-laundering crackdown.