Hong Kong influencer Joseph Lam, who was arrested this week in connection with an allegedly fraudulent cryptocurrency exchange platform, has said he ceased all operations with JPEX.

Joseph Lam JPEX
Influencer and insurance agent Joseph Lam holding a press conference in response to the JPEX crypto ‘fraud’ on September 22, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Lam held a press conference at his home in Mid-Levels on Friday afternoon, during which he told reporters that he had closed his company and terminated the rental contract for his office, but refused to disclose any details about the JPEX probe.

He was among 11 people arrested since Monday over conspiracy to defraud in the largest case of its kind in Hong Kong, involving HK$1.37 billion. Police have received at least 2,197 reports related to the case, with many people saying they had invested large amounts of money with JPEX that they had been unable to withdraw.

Lam was released on bail on Tuesday without charge.

An insurance agent and a former barrister, Lam ran an Over-The-Counter (OTC) crypto exchange store in Hong Kong. He said on social media in July that he had applied to join JPEX as a partner. He later confirmed he was a partner to Ming Pao, which found the influencer had been promoting the crypto platform and urging people to invest through it.

Mobile application of the unlicensed cryptocurrency exchange platform JPEX, on September 19, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

When asked about his involvement by journalists on Friday, Lam did not disclose any details apart from that he had ceased operations with the related business, closed down his company in Central and terminated the rental contract for his office.

Lam, who held the press conference with a lawyer and his girlfriend present, said he hoped to help the alleged victims but did not reveal how.

Police on Tuesday said they had frozen assets worth over HK$60 million linked to suspects.

Influencers and stars

Before authorities launched their investigation, JPEX had been actively promoting its financial products through influencers and stars.

Actors Julian Cheung and Jacquelin Ch’ng, who worked with JPEX to promote the platform, were questioned by police on Thursday.

Julian Cheung, who promoted JPEX, has been questioned by police over the alleged financial fraud. Photo: Screen shot of YouTube.

JPEX user Chau told Commercial Radio on Thursday that key opinion leaders had frequently published posts promoting JPEX, and thus played a critical role in influencing investors. “They really attracted people to rush to the platform and trust it,” Chau said in Cantonese, adding that JPEX often claimed its product was “low risk and high return.”

Coingaroo JPEX crypto
A branch of over-the-counter crypto exchange store Coingaroo is closed on September 19, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Another alleged victim told am730 that he had invested US$450,000 (HK$3.52 million) into the platform since last year but was unable to withdraw all the money. He said he had started to pay attention to JPEX after an influencer promoted the platform.

Aside from influencers and stars, JPEX also worked with many over-the-counter crypto stores to attract investors. Police also searched branches of OTC stores Coingaroo and Coiner on Monday.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She previously worked at Initium Media as chief editor for Hong Kong news and was a community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation serving the underprivileged. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Irene is the recipient of two Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards and three honourable mentions for her investigative, feature and video reporting. She also received a Human Rights Press Award for multimedia reporting and an honourable mention for feature writing.