Hong Kong arrests 12, seizes $116 million in broad stock scam

Hong Kong police arrested 12 people for running alleged “ramp and dump” stock scams and over money laundering after raids on luxury homes and brokerages across the city.a large body of water with a city in the background: Buildings are silhouetted as the sun sets in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, June 4, 2020. Hong Kong is facing renewed tensions following months of unprecedented pro-democracy protests that kicked off soon after last June's vigil. Demonstrations have again increased in recent weeks as China announced that it would impose sweeping national security legislation on the city, raising concerns about whether it would maintain key freedoms from the mainland.

The joint operation with the Securities and Future Commission seized HK$900 million ($116 million) in assets and arrested 7 men and 5 women, the police announced at a press briefing on Friday. They are being held on market manipulation, money laundering and fraud charges.

The alleged crimes involve so-called “ramp and dump” schemes, where a stock is bid up and then touted on social media before it’s sold, leaving other investors with losses. The scam targeted people both in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

Police searched homes in the city’s Peak, Central and Wan Chai districts as well as some securities firms located on Hong Kong Island. Some 27 premises were targeted in the raids involving 160 officers from the police and the regulator.

Last year, there were 510 investment fraud cases involving HK$856 million, compared with 300 cases, comprising HK$1.25 billion, in 2019.

In January, police arrested seven current and former bank staff in the city in an alleged money laundering case involving HK$6.3 billion in dirty money flows over the past four years.

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