Hong Kong police arrest four over alleged $155 million Tether money laundering scheme

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Hong Kong police arrest four over alleged $155 million Tether money laundering scheme
Regulators are paying close attention to the crypto world. Cesc Maymo/Getty Images
  • Hong Kong authorities arrested four men over an alleged $155 million money laundering scheme, according to reports.
  • The men, aged between 24 and 33, had made transactions in Tether on a trading platform, officials said.
  • Cryptocurrencies have long been used in crime, as they can provide anonymity and be hard to trace.

Hong Kong customs authorities have arrested four people in connection with a suspected $155 million money laundering scheme using the cryptocurrency Tether.

According to reports in Bloomberg and local media, four men aged between 24 and 33 were arrested in an operation called "Coin Breaker."

Hong Kong customs officials told the media that the men had opened various bank accounts and then made transactions in Tether - the biggest stablecoin - through a crypto exchange, outlets reported. The transactions involved HK$1.2 billion of cryptocurrency, worth roughly $155 million.

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The officials said it was the first time they had detected a suspected money laundering scheme that used digital currency. They did not name the crypto trading platform involved. Insider has contacted the Hong Kong customs office.

Read more: Your ultimate crypto reading list: 27 books that experts say everyone should read to better understand digital currencies and invest in them profitably

Cryptocurrencies have long been used in crime, thanks to the fact that they can be used anonymously and are hard to trace.

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On Friday, the US District Court in Seattle said a 33-year old identity thief who used bitcoin to avoid detection was sentenced to three years in prison.

And on Tuesday, London's Metropolitan Police said it had seized $249 million worth of cryptocurrency in a suspected money laundering case.

Top lawmakers have repeatedly raised concerns about crypto crime. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in January suggested "curtailing" cryptocurrencies saying: "Many are used - at least in a transaction sense - mainly for illicit financing."

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In Hong Kong, as in the UK, crypto companies have to register with the financial watchdog for anti-money laundering purposes.

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