Policewoman cracks Shanghai's first virtual currency money-laundering case
For ordinary people, it may be hard to imagine that an online store for mobile phone top-up might be a money-laundering gang's "cloak."
However, for Fan Yunhui, a 26-year-old female police officer in Shanghai, it was a thrilling breakthrough in busting a virtual currency crime gang in 2021.
"Suspects who use virtual coins to do money laundering may register an online store on e-commercial platforms, which offers top-up services below the market price," Fan explained.
"Then, they will use the mobile top-up money to purchase virtual coins for gamblers, and use the gamblers' money to top up the phone, which is their first step in money washing."
Fan has been working with the economic investigation detachment of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau since the mid-2020.
The case was her first independent investigation after she became an economic investigation police officer.
"When I first saw the clues, they were a real mess. I didn't know where to start," she said.
Fan spent three months to figure out how the gang exchanged the money into virtual currency.
"I was thinking about it all the time," she pointed out. "And it was while bathing that inspirations came pouring out."
Eventually, she discovered the subtle relationship between some companies' names and their business scopes.
"Those with 'telecom, technology and science' in their names or operation scope, including mobile top-up service, were put under the microscope, so to say," she said.
"Usually, large firms rarely purchase the same type of top-up services in large quantities from small companies, which aroused my suspicion."
Fan then successfully busted the gang and caught about 40 suspects.
She seized more than 800 bank accounts with total volume reaching 25 billion yuan (US$ 3.6 billion).
When the police team went to a suspect's home in suburban Shanghai, his parents opened the door.
"They said he wasn't home, but my instinct told me that he was there," said Fan.
Suspicious, she entered the house, which was a five-floor building, and finally found the suspect in a cabinet in the loft.
"I saw only one pair of eyes in the dark," she recalled, laughing.
"After that, when I was taking an elevator, I suddenly found one of my eyebrows was white," she noted. "A few days later, there were more white ones."
After the case, Fan obtained a nickname from her fellow colleagues, "knight with white eyebrows."
Of course, her success on the first case was not just due to talent and intuition. Even before starting her investigations, she learnt about virtual money for half a year. And she always carried a notebook with her when working on the case.
"Every time I figured out something, I wrote it down."
She used all the resources available around her to handle the case.
"I borrowed all my colleagues' mobile phones to register accounts on the virtual currency platforms," she said. "I put myself in the place of a student who needs to make fast money by all means."
Then she talked to gang members through the accounts to learn exactly how they managed to change money into virtual coins.
The case was not only Fan's first, but also the first money-laundering case involving virtual money cracked by Shanghai police.
What she found can also be taken as an example for all economic crime police officers across the country.
Fan said that she wants to become one of the experts on virtual money cases.
"What matters to me is not how many cases I crack, but a way to sort out similar cases and provide help for other police for reference," she stated.