Police fire shots in ambush on truck heist

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 12:00am

Tip-off ends in foiling of $8m robbery, three arrests and seizure of loaded pistols

Armed plainclothes police fired two shots, arrested three robbers and seized three loaded pistols in an ambush on a gang of robbers in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday.

The guns seized in the dramatic mid-morning raid in the popular tourist area have sparked police concerns about a possible influx of firearms.

The ambush, which included members of the Criminal Investigation Bureau armed hit squad, was laid after a tip-off.

The men were nabbed as they tried to hijack a truckload of watch parts worth $8 million.

An American-made Bryco 9mm pistol loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition and two Chinese military-style 7.62mm Black Star pistols with 11 rounds were seized.

'The three handguns are not home-made weapons,' a police source said. 'They appear to be quite new. We are still investigating how the guns were smuggled into Hong Kong and whether they are linked with other crimes.'

Another police source said: 'We are concerned about any firearms-related case. We take the case very seriously.'

Police have seized six handguns this year, compared to 15 pistols in the same period last year.

A car carrying the three men pulled up near the truck opposite the Empire Hotel Kowloon about 10.45am. Police swooped when two of the bandits approached three workers unloading the truck and threatened them with pistols.

The pair tried to retreat to the car. 'After repeated warnings to stop were ignored, two officers fired a total of two shots. No casualty was reported,' a police spokesman said.

A police van slammed into the bandits' car when it tried to drive off. Another police van blocked it from behind.

'Officers carrying shotguns and handguns surrounded the car,' an employee of a nearby hair salon said. 'They then dragged its driver out of the vehicle and pinned him on the ground.'

Tsim Sha Tsui divisional commander Superintendent Peter Barnes said an officer fired a shot from his MP5 sub-machine gun and another officer fired his service revolver when 'a weapon was presented at the officers'.

Police said two of the loaded pistols were found in the car and the third on a walkway.

Officers mounted a search and stopped passing vehicles for inspection to ensure no accomplice had escaped. Kimberley Road was closed for about six hours.

Senior Superintendent Simon So Kam-shing, of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, said police had prevented a robbery.

He said investigations were continuing and it was not appropriate to reveal further details.

It is understood officers are examining whether the gang is linked with recent highway robberies.

Yesterday's hold-up came two weeks after four armed robbers hijacked a van carrying $1 million worth of mobile phones in Kowloon Bay on October 12.

There were at least five other highway robberies between June and September.

Three Hong Kong men, aged between 33 and 38, were being held for questioning last night. No charges had been laid.