Immigration Department exposes at least 128 cross-border fake marriages, arrests 154 individuals in connection

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6th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Immigration Department has successfully dismantled a criminal syndicate involved in cross-border fake marriages between mainland Chinese and Hong Kong residents. According to a spokesperson for the department, today, the masterminds of the cross-border fake marriage scheme, both Hong Kong residents, were convicted in the District Court on 23 and 17 counts of conspiracy to defraud, respectively, and each sentenced to 36 months in prison. The syndicate has facilitated at least 128 fake marriages, with the entire operation involving over HK$7 million.

Investigations revealed that the syndicate targeted young Hong Kong residents for fake marriages, taking advantage of their lack of marriage records, making it easier for them to apply for a “single status” in Hong Kong. Hong Kong residents looking to make quick money were typically offered a reward ranging from HK$5,000 to HK$20,000. The Immigration Department’s Investigation Action Team successfully identified the masterminds and their criminal syndicate in May 2019. From August 2019 onwards, a series of arrests were made, resulting in a total of 154 individuals being apprehended, including 78 males and 76 females. Among them were 93 Hong Kong residents and 61 mainland Chinese residents, with ages ranging from 25 to 70 years old.

The investigation found that the syndicate operated primarily in the western New Territories, starting in 2007. The two masterminds established a base in a public housing estate in Tuen Mun, actively developing their social network in the area through parks, cybercafés, and restaurants. They also expanded their social circle through online gaming platforms, where many individuals became indebted due to excessive spending on in-game purchases.

The masterminds took advantage of vulnerable individuals who were facing financial difficulties or debts, as well as friends they met through online gaming, to participate in the fake marriage scheme. The syndicate also used online communication platforms to attract Hong Kong residents looking to make quick money and mainland Chinese residents interested in settling in Hong Kong. The syndicate then arranged the entire process of fake marriages, including pairing the bogus couples, facilitating their travel between the mainland and Hong Kong, and coaching them on familiarising themselves with each other’s personal information.

Among the 91 Hong Kong residents arrested, nearly half were aged between 18 and 30 years old. The investigation revealed that the syndicate specifically targeted young individuals who had no marriage records, making it easier for them to register fake marriages in the Mainland. The syndicate also offered higher payments to mainland Chinese individuals, capitalising on the perception of a “genuine marriage” and the higher fees that could be charged.

Initially, the syndicate enticed individuals with rewards ranging from HK$50,000 to HK$100,000 for their participation in fake marriages. However, Hong Kong residents typically received only HK$5,000 to HK$20,000 as their reward. The syndicate would also offer an additional HK$3,000 to HK$10,000 to Hong Kong residents who assisted mainland Chinese individuals in applying for one-way permits to come to Hong Kong. On the other hand, mainland Chinese individuals were charged approximately CNY 50,000 to CNY 100,000. The Immigration Department estimates that the entire operation involved an amount exceeding HK$7 million.

Apart from the masterminds, 12 other individuals involved in the scheme were convicted of conspiracy to defraud and received sentences ranging from 10 to 20 months in prison. The Immigration Department’s investigation is still ongoing, and it is not ruled out that more individuals will be prosecuted in the future.