A 23-year-old woman was arrested in Hong Kong on Friday for using her own bank accounts to receive HK$16 million (US$2 million) of illicit money that was linked to email scams involving at least 10 overseas companies.

In the afternoon, officers ambushed the self-described businesswoman surnamed Mok. They closed in on her at a bank in Causeway Bay that she visited to withdraw money.

Officers later searched her office nearby and seized ATM cards and chequebooks believed to be used to wash black money.

Suspected fake contracts were also discovered in the workplace. Officers believed she used the forged documents to cover the illicit activities.

“Initial investigation showed she was employed by a syndicate to open accounts for money laundering,” said Fung Wai-ling, a senior inspector with the Commercial Crime Bureau.

Fung said the case surfaced when the force’s Anti-Deception Coordination Centre, set up in July, earlier received a report from an overseas victim.

The victim claimed to have fallen prey to an email scam and asked police to help freeze a HK$2 million transaction with a local bank account. The account was later revealed to belong to Mok.

After an investigation, officers found another 13 bank accounts under her name.

“We suspect all 14 bank accounts were used for money laundering involving HK$16 million in total,” Fung added.

At least 10 overseas companies from Indonesia, the US and the UK became email scam victims, with the single largest case involving HK$5 million.

The investigation found the syndicate hacked into their computers and stole their emails and clients’ details.

Con men then used email addresses that were similar to their clients’ original ones, telling victims they were using different bank accounts. Victims were told to transfer money to the “new” accounts.

As of December, the new Hong Kong police anti-fraud squad dealt with about 450 requests to halt the payment of at least HK$880 million lost in various online and phone rackets in less than five months.

The team helped freeze more than HK$100 million before the money was transferred out of scammers’ bank accounts, located mostly in Hong Kong and in mainland China.

While dealing with more than 10,000 calls to the centre’s 24-hour inquiry hotline (18222), the team prevented more than 44 callers from falling for online or phone scams.