Nine Hongkongers have been arrested on suspicion of submitting bogus applications with falsified information and documents in an effort to claim government money under a subsidy scheme aimed at easing the burden of local businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Police on Wednesday said the six men and three women were accused of using fake details in 20 applications seeking a total of HK$1.26 million (US$163,000) from the relief fund reserved for retailers, party rooms, and beauty and massage parlours.
Chief Inspector Hui Hong-kit, of the Hong Kong Island regional crime unit, said police began investigating after receiving a complaint from the secretariat of the Anti-epidemic Fund. Some of the individuals involved allegedly submitted more than one application.
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“Investigations show some of the applicants did not run related businesses under the relief fund, or their reported business addresses had no sign of business,” Hui said.
The chief inspector said one of the suspects applied for the subsidy intended for party room operators, but used a residential flat as the business address and downloaded photos of party rooms from the internet as proof of business operations.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, officers swooped into action and arrested nine people, aged 24 to 63. The suspects, who included merchants and unemployed residents, were arrested on suspicion of fraud and attempted fraud.
According to police, the investigation is continuing, and further arrests are possible.
It was the third police operation of its kind in two months. Earlier this month, police arrested 15 people on suspicion of filing fraudulent documents seeking to claim HK$3.8 million in subsidies. In July, officers arrested two men who were similarly accused of trying to cheat the government out of HK$2.5 million.
Under the government’s scheme, operators of beauty and massage establishments are eligible for one-off allowances of up to HK$100,000 for each business, depending on the number of employees, while each party room operator can receive HK$40,000, and retail stores can apply for HK$80,000 in assistance.
This article Nine arrested on suspicion of trying to defraud Hong Kong’s coronavirus relief scheme first appeared on South China Morning Post