The 2020 edition of the five yuan banknote issued by the central bank on Nov. 5, 2020. (Photo credit to the People's Bank of China)

Stricter mainland capital outflows control increasing illegal currency exchange cases – Police authorities

The strengthening of capital control policies by financial institutions in mainland China has led to an increase in cases of individuals engaged in illegal currency exchange and in the number of homicides, local police authorities revealed.

According to a recent report on local crime this year, police authorities noted that between the years 2019 and 2021 there were three murder cases involving women engaged in illegal currency exchange, with a high profile double murder also taking place this month.

These cases have involved women engaged in illegal currency operations who generally carry large amounts of money with them, making them prime targets for theft or assault.

Last year police authorities arrested a 36-year-old man from mainland China, suspected of robbing, raping and murdering a 29-year old mainland woman and then burying her body in Hac Sa Beach.

Just some months before a 37-year-old mainland Chinese woman was also murdered, dismembered and her body parts left at Taipa Grande Hill. The suspect was later detained in Zhongshan.

Both women had been killed in Cotai integrated resorts after providing currency exchange services to mainland punters.

Then this month two mainland Chinese women were found naked and strangled to death in a hotel room in the MGM Cotai.

The perpetrator fled to the mainland and was late found after a large-scale manhunt in Hunan province, with one of the two victims believed to be involved in the illicit money exchange business and the other suspected of providing sexual services.

“With the efforts made by the Police and the mainland, all the authors of the aforementioned crimes were arrested. However, these cases have undoubtedly had a negative impact on the image and security of Macau society,” the security police department added.

According to PJ statistics, a total of 7,896 people have been detained for illicit money exchange practices in 2021 and 1,127 just in January 2022.

In 2020 and 2021 there were also, respectively, 106 and 197 cases of money exchange fraud crimes, with 33 cases reported in the first quarter of this year, signalling a “growth trend” of these crimes.

“As noted, there has been no significant drop in the number of money exchange practitioners intercepted in recent years and most of them were individuals from Mainland China,” police authorities added.

“According to the data analysis, we believe that the rise and fall in the number of people engaged in illicit money exchange are closely related to epidemic prevention measures”

Recent RMB depreciation has led to the increase in illegal money exchange across the border, according to recent reports.

The situation has led many illegal money traders to earn money from the differences in the exchange rate, by exchanging HKD to RMB at local Macau banks, and then exchanging RMB back to HKD on the mainland at an illegal market price.

Police authorities noted that individuals from Mainland China form groups that travel to Macau to engage in these illegal activities, with these practitioners gradually becoming “more specialized”.

“Although police have worked hard to combat illegal money exchange activities with cooperation from Mainland China law enforcement agencies, these illegal activities still exist. This is a factor of instability that the Police have to respond to in the long term,” police added.

Overall the number of violent offences reported in the first quarter of this year dropped by 39 per cent year-on-year to 43 cases.

Only one kidnapping case was reported during this period also, while nine had been registered during the same period last year.