Macau, mainland police bust cross-border practice banknote fraud gang

2021-04-09 04:16     Comment:0

Case involves over 100 suspects, 10 million patacas

The Judiciary Police (PJ) and the mainland police have busted a cross-border fraud gang operating in Macau and four provinces and five cities in the mainland which used “practice banknotes” to defraud victims who exchanged yuan into Hong Kong dollars notes, Judiciary Police (PJ) spokesman Leng Kam Lun said at a special press conference yesterday.

Leng said the Guangdong Public Security Bureau (PSB) and Judiciary Police launched an operation between March 25 and April 3 (last Saturday) and arrested 24 male mainlanders, three of whom were arrested in Macau.

The three jobless suspects arrested in Macau comprise a 37-year-old man surnamed Bai allegedly involved in a 80,000 yuan practice banknote fraud case on March 26, a 36-year-old man surnamed Yan allegedly involved in a 200,000 yuan practice banknote fraud case on March 28, and a 30-year-old man surnamed Peng allegedly involved in a 100,000 yuan practice banknote fraud case last Friday.

According to Leng, the 21 mainlanders arrested by the mainland police are aged between 19 and 35, comprising one from Jiangxi, nine from Jiangsu, five from Shandong, four from Zhejiang, and two from Hunan.

According to Leng, the two police forces believe that the one from Jiangxi and three from Jiangsu are key members of the gang.

Leng pointed out that the number of fraud cases involving HK$1,000 denomination practice banknotes has risen sharply in Macau since last October. The gang obtained the practice banknotes from its members in Zhuhai and used them to defraud its victims in Macau.

Other gang members used smartphone apps to find “clients” in local casinos or hotels wanting to exchange yuan into Hong Kong dollars, and then notified their fellow gang members in Macau to meet their “clients” inside or outside hotels or casinos.

The gang members usually told their “clients” that they needed to be extra careful and therefore only showed the HK$1,000 practice banknotes from a distance or half-concealed such as wrapped in cling film, to make their “clients” mistakenly believe that the banknotes were genuine, according to Leng.

Leng said after the “clients” transferred yuan into the gang’s mainland bank accounts via smartphone online banking or payment by a third-party, the gang members handed the practice banknotes to the “clients” who sooner or later realised that the notes weren’t genuine as the Chinese characters 練功券 (“practice note”) was printed on the notes.

Practice notes are generally similar in size, shape and colour to circulating banknotes and are used for training bank tellers, cashiers and staff at currency exchanges. Practice notes, which are a kind of specimen banknote, are not legal tender.

According to Leng, the gang mainly operated in the mainland and hired new members through a “recruitment” app. The newly hired members smuggled the practice banknotes from Zhuhai to Macau.

Using different kind of ruses, the gang transferred the defrauded money to the bank accounts of individuals whose data has been stolen or scammed.

Leng said that some time ago the Judiciary Police had informed the Public Security Department in Guangdong province about the wave of practice banknote fraud cases detected in Macau through a cross-border cooperation mechanism. The mainland investigation was coordinated and supervised by the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department, while the Public Security Bureau police in Zhuhai also assisted in the investigation.

The ensuing cross-border investigation revealed that the gang members were based in several provinces and cities in the mainland. The gang was well organised, and each member had a specific role to play, Leng said, adding that the members were well trained in avoiding detection by the police

According to Leng, the mainland police took action on March 25 and arrested 21 mainlanders in four provinces and five cities comprising Zhongshan in Guangdong province, Weifang and Linyi in Shandong province, Taizhou in Zhejiang province, and Yancheng in Jiangsu province.

Leng said that the Judiciary Police took action on the same day and sent 22 officers to various local casinos and areas nearby in Taipa. PJ officers intercepted 125 mainlanders allegedly involved in illegal currency exchange deals comprising 103 men and 22 women.

A total of 22 people were taken to a police station for further investigation on March 25 and later transferred to the Public Security Police (PSP) to formalise the termination of their stay in Macau.

After analysing the data of each case and the evidence collected during the investigation by the Judiciary Police and the mainland police, both forces preliminarily concluded that the gang was involved in at least 73 practice banknote fraud cases totalling about 10 million patacas in ill-gotten gains. Leng also said that a total of 103 people were believed to have been involved in the 73 cases, adding that 21 men were arrested in the mainland, while 32 suspects including Bai, Yan and Peng were detained in Macau, Leng said.

Leng said that Bai, Yan and Peng have been transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP). The gang members were paid between 200 yuan (244 patacas) and 1,000 yuan for each successfully completed practice banknote deal, according to Leng.

According to Leng, the Guangdong and local police are continuing their investigation into the case which may involve even more practice banknote fraud cases.

Leng said the police believe that the gang had been operating since last year with at least 100 members including kingpins and key members.

Evidence such as practice banknotes seized by the Judiciary Police (PJ) is displayed at the PJ headquarters yesterday. photo: Iong Tat Choi

Practice banknotes seized by the Judiciary Police (PJ) are displayed at the PJ headquarters yesterday. Photos: Iong Tat Choi

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