Triad allies cash in on crimes over the border

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 September, 2004, 12:00am

Police in HK, Macau and Guangdong increase co-operation in crackdown

Triads are increasingly turning to cross-border activities to cash in on the demand for sex, drugs and contraband, experts said yesterday.

Hong Kong's three most powerful triads - Wo Shing Wo, 14K and Sun Yee On - are known to have forged alliances with prominent gangs in Macau and on the mainland.

They are sharing skills, expertise and cash in return for a mutual flow of high-quality drugs, sex workers and counterfeit goods, senior police and analysts said.

The comments follow a massive anti-triad crackdown, a seven-day operation in Macau, Guangdong and Hong Kong, which ended on Wednesday.

In Hong Kong alone, more than 1,500 suspected triad members or associates were arrested in 2,000 raids involving 6,000 officers.

Officers said the joint operation, code-named Sun Rise, was a major success and had severely dented the financial pipeline that funds the criminal activities of triads.

Chief Superintendent Stephen Fung Kin-man of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau said cross-border co-operation was crucial to curbing many serious crimes involving triads.

'Because of the close proximity of the three places, we have identified that some Hong Kong triads are operating in these other regions,' Mr Fung said.

Intelligence-sharing between law enforcement agencies was opening up new leads for investigators trying to combat triad societies.

He said triads were involved in protection rackets, vice activities, illegal gambling and bookmaking, dangerous drugs, pornographic and pirated optical discs, counterfeiting, contraband cigarettes and selling illegal, unmarked oil. Two key factors contributing to the increasing underworld trade are the emerging middle class on the mainland and the recently introduced individual travel permit system into Hong Kong.

Mr Fung said police had observed a significant boom in the cross-border trafficking of sex workers. Some syndicates were recruiting people to work as prostitutes on the mainland and arranging their transfer to Hong Kong.

Triads were also using on-line brothels to attract customers. They were leasing flats as reception centres where customers could choose girls from a selection of photos, he said, while the girls waited in another apartment.

Chu Yiu-kong, a criminologist at the University of Hong Kong, said it was not unusual to find the underworld branching out in such a way.

'Triads are not the only businesses turning to China. But from their point of view it is where they can get everything they want - drugs, girls, these sorts of things,' Dr Chu said.

'It is a massive market and a resource-rich area ... and people in China, too, want what they are offering.'

He said it was clear the joint operation was a show of strength by the law enforcement agencies.

'They want to show police power - how they can mobilise a large number of police officers and that they can strike hard. Especially before the October 1 National Day holiday, they need to do something to show off police strength.'



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