Police arrest 47 in triad operation
Thomas Chan and Clifford Lo
Police believe they have broken up a triad syndicate that laundered HK$250 million from illegal businesses in the past two to three years.
The former leader of the Wo On Lok triad, known as Yip Chai, and his close associate, whose alias is Dai Ma, were among 47 people arrested in a three-day operation codenamed Bonfire that ended yesterday.
'Initial investigations show that the two men are the alleged masterminds of the syndicate,' a police investigator said.
'Their illegal businesses involved bookmaking and the sale of illicit cigarettes and obscene discs.'
He said the gang collected illegal bets on soccer matches and horse racing, and also ran a loan-sharking operation with Macau gangs.
During a series of raids in the past three days, police seized HK$1.5 million in cash, valuable items, horse-racing betting records with a face value of HK$5.4 million, and contraband cigarettes and obscene discs worth HK$1.3 million.
The officer said police were also considering seeking a court order to freeze the assets linked with the illegal activities of the core syndicate members.
The Kowloon West crime unit began investigating the syndicate, collecting evidence and identifying core members, several months ago.
Officers also got help from the financial-investigation division of the Narcotics Bureau.
'The amount of money they laundered is one of the biggest figures we've seen in recent years,' said Superintendent Brian Lowcock.
Over the past three days, 150 officers were deployed in raids across the city. Thirty-two men and 15 women, aged from 28 to 65, were arrested.
Police said 11 of them were core members of the syndicate and arrested on suspicion of money laundering. The rest were arrested for illegal gambling and bookmaking.
Last night, police were still hunting for several other core members.
Yip Chai and Dai Ma have been involved in a leadership struggle in Wo On Lok since two leaders - 'Fei Wai' and 'Sam Chuen' - refused to step down in 2010, sparking a spate of violence. The triad elects leaders every two years.
The infighting also sparked a brutal chopping attack that resulted in a traffic policeman shooting dead one of five knife-wielding attackers in Cheung Sha Wan in May.
Wo On Lok, also known as Shui Fong, operates mainly in Sham Shui Po and Yau Tsim Mong districts.