Crime expert on $1m airport cash loss: Laundering stolen money ‘easy’ in Hong Kong

July 25, 2015 12:25 am

A Cathay Pacific plane at airport. Police are investigating
the loss of the bag as theft. Photo / Daniel J. Grosong / Bloomberg

You would have to be “unlucky or silly” to get caught with $1 million
in stolen cash in Hong Kong, a criminologist has said, refering to the
bag of New Zealand bills that went missing at the city’s airport.
It emerged yesterday that a bag containing $1 million in New Zealand notes was lost after coming off a Cathay Pacific Airlines flight at Hong Kong airport.
The bag was one of 13 carrying a total of $10 million, the Chinese language website Oriental Daily reported.

A screen grab from a video report from the Oriental Daily shows what the cash bags look like.
A screen grab from a video report from the Oriental Daily shows what the cash bags look like.

The bag was flown from New Zealand on a Cathay Pacific
aircraft and arrived at Hong Kong International Airport on Friday night,
English news site Shanghaiist, reporting the Daily’s article, said.
Today,
University of Canterbury Criminologist, Professor Greg Newbold said
changing the money in Hong Kong would be a “safe bet”, provided you knew
what you were doing.
The easiest way would be to launder the money, as it would be unsafe to change it through a bank, he said.
“They
won’t be able to change it legally. No one will be able to go into a
Hong Kong bank… the bank, highly likely, would notify the authorities,
you would be taking a risk. Unless you had some corrupt official inside
the bank. Then that could happen.
“There are high levels of
corruption in Hong Kong so it depends on whether you are dealing with a
corrupt official or a dedicated official. I think if you’ve got $1
million anyone can be corrupt if you pay them.”
The best bet for a
person with a large amount of cash would be to launder it through
purchasing drugs, or even real estate, Mr Newbold said.
“For
example, you could buy some estate or some property worth $500,000 and
say, ‘listen I’ll give you $1 million NZD no questions asked’.”
The money could also be laundered through gambling, as a casino would exchange chips for New Zealand dollars, he said.
“You
wouldn’t need to necessarily spend the $1 million altogether, you would
drip it out here and there, a few thousand here and there over a few
years.
“It would be pretty easy to do that really, in fact you would have to be unlucky or silly to get caught I would think.”
The
stolen cash was being transported to the Bank of in bags labelled
G4S International Logistics in a luggage box through a cargo transfer
service provided by a Cathay subsidiary, Hong Kong Airport Services.
Surveillance
footage showed the three bags fell out from the trailer, which was not
properly fastened, while it was making a turn at a corner, Shanghaiist
said.
“During the transfer, there was only a driver on board
without a security guard. Only 10 minutes later when the cargo arrived
at the station, the driver realised the bags were missing.”
Two of the three missing bags were later found on the tarmac, but the third remains missing.
A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman confirmed the airline had transported the “valuable shipment” on July 17.
“Upon arrival it was transferred to the cargo terminal where part of the cargo shipment was found missing,” she said.
“As the case is under police investigation, we are unable to provide further details.”
G4S
International Logistics – which specialises in transporting valuable
cargo – denied responsibility for the lost money, which is insured.
G4S North Asia commodities director Janet Leung told the South China Morning Post that the entire currency consignment was
“accounted for” prior to its transfer into a restricted area at the airport. She was “very concerned” by the loss.
“This
loss occurred within the controlled airside sector of HKIA – a
restricted area that we are not allowed access to,” she said.
“We
can confirm that the missing banknotes were safe and accounted for
during the entire time it was in G4Si’s possession, up until it was in
the controlled airside sector.”
The security group was
“confident” the police and airport would be “diligent in their
investigation and recovery efforts”, Ms Leung said.
“G4Si is working hard to understand the chain of events that led to this loss,” she said.
Hong
Kong police were investigating the theft. Police in New Zealand said
they were aware of the theft but were not investigating it.
A spokeswoman for Auckland Airport could not comment.
A Customs spokeswoman said the agency was not involved in the incident.
– With additional reporting from NZME News Service

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