Hong Kong Thieves Replace $72 Million in Gold Bars with Worthless Metal
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that Hong Kong police are investigating a shipment of one ton of gold bullion, worth about $72 million, from Africa to a mainland China businessman after part of the consignment was swapped for metal bars.
On June 5th, Mr. Zhao Jingjun, age 43, opened part of his shipment in front of his buyer in Hong Kong and discovered the gold had been switched for worthless metal. A senior police officer said it would be the city's biggest heist in a decade if it was confirmed that all the gold had been stolen.
An initial inquiry showed Zhao purchased 2,200 pounds (998 kg) of gold bars from a company in Ghana in mid-April, according to police. The consignment of 14 cases was supposedly escorted by Zhao’s staff and delivered from Ghana on a chartered flight late last month.
"Officers were told that his employee confirmed the cases contained the gold before it was loaded onto the chartered flight in Ghana," a police source told the SCMP. The then-employee left Hong Kong after the consignment was handed to the staff of a Hong Kong logistics company at Chek Lap Kok airport and couriered across the bay to a Tsuen Wan warehouse in the New Territories.
The businessman from Hebei Province arrived on Monday and checked into the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel. On Wednesday, he had five of the cases couriered to his local buyer's office.
"When he opened the boxes, he found they were filled with metal bars instead of gold bullion," the source said. "He told officers the cases appeared to have been tampered with."
Police received a report from Zhao with documents proving he bought the bullion in Ghana and that it was delivered to Hong Kong. A police investigator told SCMP, "We don't rule out the possibility that the gold bullion may have been switched for metal bars before being delivered to Hong Kong."
Zhao acknowledged he has made several such gold transactions, but has never had a problem with the shipments. His business activities include the regular purchase of industrial iron ore from Australia, Africa, and South America.
Four years ago, 265 gold bars were taken from a Yuen Long company. Police arrested three men and recovered most of the stolen $12 million in bullion.
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