Four suspects – two local men and two men from the mainland – were arrested on Saturday in Macao and Zhuhai respectively for using Hong Kong dollar practice banknotes to buy casino chips worth HK$10.6 million (US$1.47 million), Judiciary Police (PJ) spokeswoman Lei Hon Nei said at a special press conference on Monday.
Practice bank notes are similar in size, shape and colour to genuine banknotes and are used to train bank tellers and cashiers.
The two local suspects are a 34-year-old jobless man surnamed Fan and a 32-year-old man surnamed Chong who told the police that he is a taxi driver. The other two suspects are 24-year-old jobless men from the mainland surnamed Chen and Wu.
According to Lei, a local man reported to the police on Friday night that he had been cheated when he sold casino chips worth HK$10.6 million.
The victim told the police that he wanted to exchange cash for his boss who kept his money in a VIP casino room in Zape which recently suspended its cash chips exchange service. So he contacted a man through an intermediary and struck a deal to exchange casino chips worth HK$10.6 million into HK$10 million in cash.
The victim, together with a friend and the intermediary, took cash chips worth HK$10.6 million from the VIP room on Friday night. They went to a dark corner in Avenida de Artur Tamagnini Barbosa near Tai Fung Bank in Toi San district to sell the chips for HK$10 million in cash to Wu and Chen.
9,949 practice notes
When the victim was still counting the notes, Wu and Chen got into a taxi and left. The victim soon discovered that the suspects only gave him HK$40,000 in genuine notes while 9,949 notes were Hong Kong dollar practice notes. He immediately reported the case to the police.
Thanks to CCTV footage, PJ officers discovered that Wu and Chen took a taxi to the Barrier Gate checkpoint and met Chong in a washroom where they gave him all the chips, after which they returned to the mainland immediately. Chong was picked up by a 7-seater people carrier and left the scene, according to Lei.
Lei said PJ officers later discovered the 7-seater in Cotai and confirmed that Fan, the suspected kingpin of the quartet, is the owner of the car. On Saturday morning, PJ officers arrested Fan while he was about to collect the chips from the car. They seized all the chips from him.
PJ officers also arrested Chong in a residential flat in Fai Chi Kei later that day. Chong admitted to committing the crime and told the police that he had been told by Fan to pick up Wu and Chen on the day of the crime and get the chips from them. The Judiciary Police notified their counterparts in Zhuhai about the case. Chen and Wu were arrested in Zhuhai on Saturday afternoon.
Lei said that Fan told some other people to drive his 7-seater around the city after the “deal” to check whether the police was taking any action. Fan refused to cooperate with the police.
Lei pointed out that the VIP room involved in the case has recently suspended its cash chips exchange service, and that’s why the victim struck the deal with the suspects.
Fan and Chong were transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) on Monday for further investigation, facing fraud and organised crime charges.