Vice ring suspect is arrested with $1.2m

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 October, 2004, 12:00am

The alleged mastermind behind the vice syndicate smashed by the police on Monday was caught with rolls of bank notes in her bag in Tuen Mun yesterday afternoon.

The 39-year-old woman, a former mainlander who is now a Hong Kong resident, was said to be the leader of a cross-border prostitution racket that has already made an estimated $35 million.

'We're still investigating. We have arrested the principal and we seized a lot of cash,' said Superintendent Mike Howard, of Crime Kowloon West Headquarters.

The woman, carrying about $1.2 million, was caught at a friend's home at about 3pm. Another woman, aged 36, was also arrested.

The kingpin's arrest came less than a day after the superintendent said he was confident of catching the woman within 24 hours.

The police will give more details of the operation today.

More than 300 undercover and uniformed officers launched simultaneous raids across Hong Kong on Monday as part of a 10-month investigation codenamed Operation Backrunner.

They arrested four men and 10 women during the raids, including what the police believed to be leading members of the syndicate. They also seized dozens of brothels, apartments and bank accounts.

But the alleged kingpin slipped the noose of a police stakeout in the crowded streets of Tsim Sha Tsui.

Investigations suggested the syndicate has been recruiting and trafficking prostitutes from the mainland, housing them and taking a share of their earnings. The gang also advertised online.

The syndicate had been exploiting a loophole in the law known as the 'one woman/one apartment rule'. Investigations found the syndicate head owned at least 15 premises subdivided into cubicles and used as brothels.