The Judiciary Police (PJ) and the Macau Monetary Authority (AMCM) announced on Thursday in a joint press conference that they busted an “underground bank” in Areia Preta where two male mainlanders, a 26-year-old surnamed Wang and a 30-year-old surnamed Lu, were arrested for their alleged involvement in the illegal financial operation.
PJ spokesman Suen Kam Fai said several locals asked the AMCM – the government’s financial regulator – last month about the business, located on the corner of Avenida de Venceslau de Morais and Avenida do Nordeste in Areia Preta and advertised in Chinese as “Macau Local Residents’ Funds Mutual Help Society”. AMCM officials found that the business was not registered and thus carrying out financial activities illegally so they contacted the Judiciary Police on December 30th.
PJ and AMCM officials swooped on the business premises afterwards, seizing the personal information of 15 locals who had accounts there. The officials also confiscated HK$150,000 and 10,300 patacas in cash. Suen said most of the 15 locals were employed by the business or their relatives, adding that the person “behind the business” was not in Macau. Suen added that the business opened on December 22nd and tried to lure residents to deposit money by promising annual interest of as much as 12 percent.
In addition, the “underground bank” also encouraged its customers to bring in new ones by giving them vouchers, beauty care products or small amounts of money, according to Suen, who also said that the police did not rule out the possibility of more people being involved.
AMCM Banking Supervision Department Deputy Director Wilson Vong Lap Fong pointed out that cases where people set up illegal financial operations in Macau are rare. He stressed that without the approval of the AMCM, such activities are illegal.
Suen said the two suspects would be transferred to the Public Prosecution Office (MP) to face possible charges of taking in deposits without authorisation. According to Article 121 of the Macau Financial System Act, the duo face a two-year prison sentence if found guilty.