Twenty-three people were arrested in Hong Kong over the weekend when police busted a compensated dating ring that raked in HK$20 million over the last five years.
Police said the ring had grown to comprise 100,000 members since 2012, with half of them male customers who could choose different membership levels affording varying online access with ladies who received compensation for going on dates through a website called “hklovely.”
Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the New Territories North regional crime unit said two undercover officers were sent to infiltrate the ring and collect evidence last September when the operation was launched. The arrests were made on Saturday.
Customers could buy three months of the ladies’ data leading to interactions at a rate of either HK$4,500 for three months or HK$6,500 for six months, Li said.
But they needed to pay another HK$8,000 to HK$20,000 if they wanted to ask the ladies out.
Customers were also asked to pay different membership fees to access data pertaining to the ladies.
Ladies could gain membership for free, the superintendent added. Their member status was promoted based on the number of times they provided sexual services.
In total, 23 people were arrested, including a 33-year-old IT technician who founded the website. In 2015, he was arrested and charged for living on prostitution earnings from a compensated dating website he ran called “hkbigman”. It was founded in 2011 and had 90,000 members and a similar business model to “hklovely”.
The man was convicted last year and sentenced to 240 hours of community service and fined HK$100,000.
Nine of the arrested on Saturday were suspected to be core members of the syndicate.
The 23 included 12 men and 11 women aged 17 to 67. Five male website staff members and five suspected compensated-dating girls aged 17 to 29 were among them.
Officers also seized a Lamborghini and a BMW convertible that were combined worth HK$4.1 million, which were believed to be purchased as the ring laundered its suspected crime proceeds.
Investigators froze five bank accounts linked to the group.
A sum of HK$50,000 in cash, more than 10 computers and 26 mobiles phones were also taken as evidence.
The operation was due to continue.
The compensated-dating website “hklovely”, which is hosted by a server abroad, was still running late Sunday. Police were trying to liaise with Interpol to shut it down.