Police hit triads' vice and drug income in West Kowloon raids

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 June, 2003, 12:00am

Police have arrested 304 people and seized millions of dollars worth of illicit goods ranging from Ecstasy and ketamine, to pornographic discs and fake watches in a massive operation against triads in West Kowloon.

The 24-hour operation, involving 500 officers, ended at 2am yesterday and was aimed at strangling the money supply of the criminal gangs, police said.

The sweep comes after triad gangsters issued high-profile challenges to the authority of police in the region, taunting officers on the street. Police Commissioner Tsang Yam-pui responded last month by saying that no one would be allowed to challenge police authority.

Officers who seized $2.8 million worth of goods yesterday said they had dealt a severe blow to the gangs. Many of those arrested were mainland women suspected of vice offences, but police said triad members were among the 40 men being held.

The operation also involved officers of the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority, and from the customs, immigration and labour departments. It targeted the revenue sources of triad societies including the Sun Yee On, 14K and Wo Shing Wo, according to a police source.

'Their income sources are generated from their rackets, which include vice, extortion, drug trafficking and the sale of contraband cigarettes, pirated and pornographic compact discs, illicit fuel and counterfeit watches,' the source said.

During the operation, police officers and personnel from the other enforcement agencies were sent to 110 premises known as triad bases. They included pubs, karaoke lounges, nightclubs, massage centres, vice dens, guesthouses and residential units in Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei, Shamshuipo and Kowloon City.

Officers arrested 40 men and 264 women for various offences. Police said several triad members were among those arrested. Others included 270 mainlanders, three Pakistanis, two Thais and two Vietnamese.

The seized goods include 1.7kg of ketamine, 1,200 tablets of Ecstasy, 80 grams of cannabis, 102,000 pirated and pornographic compact discs, 27,600 cartons of contraband cigarettes, and 144 counterfeit watches.

'In addition to the seizure of the $2.8 million worth of goods - the revenue sources of the triad gangs, we have made a heavy blow to their vice activities because most of the 270 mainlanders arrested in the operation are suspected prostitutes,' the source said.

In February, police were criticised for their failure to arrest suspected gang members during two well-publicised standoffs in Yau Ma Tei.

Photographs published in several newspapers and magazines showed shirtless gangsters taunting police who stood by with their arms folded.

There was a string of similar incidents last month.

Police said yesterday's operation was launched after a lengthy investigation into the triad gangs' source of income.

'Police are determined to crack down on triad activities and will conduct similar operations in the future,' a police spokesman said.