Helpers getting dragged into money laundering: police

Police are warning that criminals are preying on foreign domestic helpers by offering them cash in exchange for access to their bank accounts, which are then used for money laundering.

They say gangs are contacting migrant workers, via social media or mobile phone mass messaging.

“Throughout our investigations, some of the [helpers] were approached through the social media and also sometimes some were approached by some strangers on their off day on the streets,” said chief inspector Michael Lai from the force’s financial intelligence and investigation bureau.

Another chief inspector from the bureau, Chan Chung-yan, said the money offered by the criminals was sometimes enough to persuade them to hand over their accounts, with gangs taking advantage of migrant workers’ lack of knowledge of Hong Kong law.

“A thousand or two thousand dollars actually accounts for quite a big proportion of a helper’s salary, it’s indeed quite attractive,” Chan said.

Officers say that, of 43 people arrested in two recent operations, 34 of them were helpers.

The force says the number of arrests and prosecutions for money laundering both increased in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period in 2020, although the number of cases has dropped from about 840 to around 660.

People convicted of money laundering can be fined up to HK$5 million or jailed for up to 14 years.