During a special operation with the symbolic name "Coin Breaker", Hong Kong customs arrested four people suspected of creating a criminal syndicate for money laundering. Including, in the equivalent of cryptocurrencies.
According to Chinese media reports, the total amount of money laundered by cybercriminals over 15 months amounted to more than 1.2 billion Hong Kong dollars, which is equivalent to 155 million US dollars. Of the total, HK 880 million (about US 113 million) was in digital currencies.
The members of the syndicate kept these funds in 40 cryptocurrency wallets. In addition, they opened accounts with various banks and set up fly-by-night firms and conducted transactions through crypto exchanges in an attempt to convert cryptocurrencies into “clean” cash.
According to a law enforcement report, 60% of the laundered money was transferred through Singapore accounts, with the stablecoin Tether (USDT) playing the main role in the criminal “scheme”. One can involuntarily recall the recently published conclusion of Chainalysis experts that Chinese citizens often use USDT to withdraw their capital abroad.
In order to trace the accounts of final recipients, investigators in Hong Kong had to ask for help from colleagues in Singapore. As a result, over 20 million Hong Kong dollars were found and frozen in the bank accounts of the syndicate leader.
Among the recipients, customs officials mentioned bank accounts not only in Hong Kong and Singapore, but also in mainland China. The criminals asked for their services 3-5%, depending on the amount.
Law enforcement officers stressed that it was cryptocurrencies that became the main obstacle in tracking cash flows, because of which the implementation of the special operation took much longer.