Huge triad sweep fails to snare big bosses

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 September, 2004, 12:00am

Operation nets 1,500 gang suspects or associates but not the 'dragonheads'

More than 1,500 suspected triad members or associates have been arrested in a cross-border police operation involving 6,000 local officers and 2,000 raids - but senior crime figures remain untouched.

Hong Kong's three most powerful gangs - Sun Yee On, 14K and Wo Shing Wo - were targeted during the seven-day operation 'Sun Rise', which involved raids on brothels and gambling and drug dens.

But no crime lords, or 'dragonheads' - triad office bearers - were among the 1,569 people arrested, said Chief Superintendent Stephen Fung Kin-man of Hong Kong's Organised Crime and Triad Bureau.

Mr Fung said the focus of the operation was to hit the triads' income.

'Different tactics might have to be used in tackling the triad problem in Hong Kong and it all depends on our focus,' he said.

'Our main focus was to attack their financial source and through this joint operation we wanted to deliver a strong signal to the triad and criminal fraternity.

'At the end of it I think we have achieved our aims and the operation is considered to be very successful.'

Backed by intelligence co-operation from Macau and Guangdong, officers raided more than 2,000 locations including discos, games centres, massage establishments and flats.

They smashed 23 vice establishments, 18 gambling and six drug-smoking dens, and nine pirated disc centres, leading to the arrests of 802 men and 767 women.

During the operation, officers seized about 190 grams of heroin, 1,700 tablets of Ecstasy, 200 grams of ketamine and weapons including steel bars, clubs and knives.

About $3.2 million worth of betting slips and $220,000 cash suspected to be connected with illegal soccer betting were also seized.

More than 160,000 obscene or pirated optical discs, 9,500 litres of illicit oil and 3.9 million counterfeit cigarettes were found by officers.

Mr Fung said: 'Under the effective mechanism of exchange of intelligence, the Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong police have curbed many serious crimes involving triads.'

He said by cutting the pipeline to their revenue source they had put a severe dent in triad activity.

Mr Fung rejected reports that the operation was part of a 'clean-out' before the National Day holiday on October 1. 'Many have made the suggestion that it is some sort of clean-out, but that is not the idea,' he said.

'Among the thousand-odd people arrested, many of them have some sort of triad background.

'During our operation we hit several areas of vice activities such as illegal soccer bookmaking and the selling of contraband cigarettes, illicit oil and soft drugs such as ketamine and Ecstasy.

'Most of the people involved in these activities are likely to have some sort of triad background ... but none are high-ranking triad bosses.'

Mr Fung said triad societies in Hong Kong had evolved over the years into very loosely connected gangs.

'They are not very organised - they don't have central control - very much like gangsters.'