Hong Kong customs arrested four people suspected of forming a criminal conspiracy for money laundering during a special operation dubbed “Coin Breaker.” In the form of cryptocurrency, for example.
According to Chinese media sources, cybercriminals laundered more than 1.2 billion Hong Kong dollars, equivalent to 155 million US dollars, for 15 months. Digital currencies accounted for HK 880 million (about US 113 million) of the total.
The funds were housed in 40 cryptocurrency wallets by the syndicate’s members. They also opened accounts with various banks, set up fly-by-night businesses, and transacted through cryptocurrency exchanges to convert bitcoins into “clean” cash.
According to a police report, 60 percent of the money was laundered through Singapore accounts, with the stablecoin Tether (USDT) playing a key role in the criminal “plot.” Involuntarily, one may recollect Chainalysis researchers’ recent conclusion that Chinese citizens frequently use USDT to withdraw funds abroad.
Investigators in Hong Kong had to seek assistance from colleagues in Singapore in order to track the final beneficiaries’ accounts. As a result, approximately 20 million Hong Kong dollars were discovered and frozen in the syndicate leader’s bank accounts.
Customs authorities listed bank accounts not only in Hong Kong and Singapore but also in mainland China among the receivers. The crooks demanded a fee of 3-5 percent of the total, depending on the amount.
According to law enforcement personnel, the primary barrier in tracing currency transfers was cryptocurrencies, which made the special operation take significantly longer to implement.