HONG KONG - Two passengers on a cab that happened to drive by when bank notes worth HK$15.23 million (S$2.6 million) spilled out of a money transport van have been arrested for taking the cash, according to local media.
The duo, a man aged 43 and a woman, 36, are the first to be nabbed in the incident that took place on Christmas Eve on Gloucester Road in the bustling Wan Chai district, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The man works in electronics recycling and the woman is a cosmetologist, SCMP said. The police said they were arrested in separate locations in the city.
"We found the money stored under the bed at their homes and they admitted they took the money on Gloucester after getting off the taxi they were in," SCMP quoted police chief inspector Addy Li Chi-kin as saying at a press briefing. "During the mission police have found HK$165,000 in cash at the male suspect's home in Kowloon Bay. In-depth investigation is still under way in the female suspect's home."
SCMP also reported that the two were tracked down from closed circuit television footage, and the licence plates of vehicles at the scene.
According to the SCMP, three guards were manning the van during Wednesday's incident, and they were driving to security firm G4S' headquarters in Cheung Sha Wan Kowloon, about 14km from the scene. Although the amount of cash spilled was considerable, the guards had driven on.
Many were seen picking up the spilled cash from the road, according to several witnesses. Some of them were tourists from China's mainland who jumped out of tour buses to take the cash, reported SCMP.
Insp Li said that whether the cash can be retreived from people who have left the city depends on whether the police knew their identites. He appealed to the public to return the cash to the police.
The police said on Friday that HK$5.69 million had been retreived after 30 people so far had returned the money. One turned in HK$2 million to the police, according to SCMP.
There was HK$525 million in cash on the van, SCMP quoted the police as saying, with HK$17.5 million in each box.
Security firm G4S was responsible for the delivery of the notes. It was hired by The Bank of China (BOCHK).
The bank, in a statement on Thursday uploaded by SCMP, said: "G4S has apologised for the incident and will hold liable to all the losses incurred based upon the contract engaged with BOCHK.
"Immediately following the incident, BOCHK has already urged G4S to investigate into the incident by identifying root causes and adopting prompt remediation to prevent further recurrence in the future."
G4S spokesman Sheeta Leung Hui Kwan was quoted by SCMP as saying: "We are still having an internal investigation and we found that something went wrong with the door on the left side. Our guards (conducted) the job according to the standard procedure but during the incident there were three guards in the van.
"Our guards reported the incident when they reached Cheung Sha Wan, our head office. Due to the code of conduct and comfort problems, we will not put any guards inside where we store the money. The normal procedure is, if the bank wants to release the money somewhere, we will collect the cash and then put it in our vault, and we have to count the cash for security, and then we will deliver it according to the bank's order."