Supermodel's mom says she lost $20m to phone scam

Top News | Erin Chan 6 May 2021

The mother of supermodel Rosemary Vandenbroucke has lost HK$20 million in the latest "fake mainland officials" phone scam.

Julie Pang Lei's experience, she told police, started on March 18 when the 70-year-old received a call from a scammer posing as a mainland official while she was at home at the Sorrento residential complex in Kowloon.

The caller accused Pang, a retired business owner, of money laundering and told her to surrender the details of her bank accounts, including passwords, to assist in the mainland inquiry.

Pang subsequently handed details of her seven bank accounts to the scammer. She was also told to keep the case confidential and not to check her bank statements.

On April 16, Pang suspected she had fallen victim to a scam after learning HK$20 million from four of her bank accounts had been transferred via online banking. She reported to police, who classified the case as "obtaining property by deception." It is being investigated by the police division of Yau Tsim district.

Pang married Frenchman Alain Vandenbroucke in France in the 1980s before the couple returned to Hong Kong and set up a garment business.

They divorced in 2007 after their business turned sour. Alain Vandenbroucke then moved to Vietnam.

Pang grabbed headlines in 2010 when she faced her ex-husband in court over the division of HK$65 million worth of marital assets. She was later allowed to keep 60 percent.

Pang was also ordered by the court to sell a flat in Jardine's Lookout Garden Mansion in Wan Chai, along with a parking space, and told to give half of the money from the transaction to her ex-husband.

Rosemary Vandenbroucke, 39, born in France in 1981, has worked in the modeling industry for over 20 years after making her debut at the age of 14. She has also ventured into singing and acting and in 2006 released recording singles in English, Putonghua and Cantonese.

Between 2001 and 2016, she appeared in local movies such as La Brassiere, Spy Dad, Hot Summer Days and Lady Bloodfight as well as Singaporean musical drama The Kitchen Musical.

She has also been caught in lawsuits.

In 2010, she was arrested in the US state of Nevada after crashing her rented vehicle into a landmark there.

She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and felony charges and was fined US$1,000 (HK$7,800).

In 2015, she married Chinese-Indian businessman Jason Swamy.

Since 2016, she has focused on her work as a certified yoga instructor.

In September 2018, she gave birth to son Hendrix.

Rosemary Vandenbroucke is known to have a fluctuating relationship with her mother, who was her manager when she first joined the modeling industry.

Police, meanwhile, said there were 122 phone scams recorded in the first two months of the year - a 31.2 percent increase from the 93 in the same period last year.

There were a total of 1,193 phone scams last year - an 84 percent rise from 2019, with losses surging almost four times from HK$1.5 billion to HK$5.7 billion, police said.

Of the phone scams last year, 15 involved tricksters posing as mainland officials and telling victims they had breached the national security law.

Their biggest victim then lost HK$2.2 million, a fraction of what Pang said she lost.

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