In Macau, police authorities have arrested two men and two women believed to be involved in a criminal syndicate suspected of defrauding at least 17 women out of HK$21.5 million (US$2.8 million) in online romance scams, the South China Morning Post reported.
Hong Kong police indicated that the gang scammed 10 victims the SAR out of HK$20 million and another seven out of HK$1.5 million in Macau.
The Judiciary Police (PJ) stated to Macau News Agency that of the detained people in Macau, one woman was a local resident with the remaining three being non-residents.
“The four used the identity of ‘online lovers’ to request the victims to remit money under different pretexts. On the grounds of investing in virtual currencies and learning about loopholes in gambling websites, the victims were lured into remittances, and the victims were initially given a small profit. After the victims invested more money, they would stop contacting them, the PJ stated.
The bank account of a Macau woman was said to have also processed more than 100 transactions of unknown origin, involving MOP1.1 million, with authorities believing that there are still a large number of victims in this case.
The gang is believed to be involved in at least five online dating fraud cases, with at least seven victims, involving almost MOP400,000.
The four detainees were sent to the Public Prosecutions Office for a follow-up investigation and to possibly face crime of fraud representing a large amount and money laundering.
The SCMP stated that one of the detainees in Macau is believed to be the ringleader of the syndicate, with one man and two women detained in Hong Kong on suspicion of fraud and money laundering, as they were believed to be responsible for laundering the proceeds of the crimes.
The fraudsters were said to search for targets online and, after developing close romantic relationships with them, requested they make money transfers under various pretexts.
The detentions were the culmination of a three-week joint operation, code-named “Guardway”.
In Hong Kong, 517 people were said to have fallen victim to such cons between January and April this year, nearly double the same period in 2020, with the amount of money lost also more than doubling to HK$196 million.