700 arrested in drive to cut off gang funds

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 12:00am

More than 150 people were arrested yesterday in the final phase of one of the biggest crackdowns on triad activities in West Kowloon.

A total of 703 people were taken into custody during the three-day Operation Windpipe, the highest number of arrests made in any crackdown on organised crime in the district.

The operation was aimed at cutting off the finances of triad gangs that rely heavily on illegal gambling, the drugs trade, pornography and prostitution, police said.

They seized illicit goods worth $3 million - including hauls of the drugs Ecstasy and ketamine, contraband fuel and cigarettes, pornographic videos and counterfeit handbags - during raids at more than 100 locations in Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei, Shamshuipo and Kowloon City.

Of the total, about 97,000 pornographic and pirated video discs accounted for $1.9 million, 1,700 fake designer handbags for $500,000, and 15,000 contraband cigarettes $6,000.

Weapons including an electric stun gun, various knives and sharpened pipes were also confiscated.

Those arrested were 352 men and 351 women, aged 15 to 86.

Police said they included triad members and mainland women on two-way permits suspected of vice offences.

The crackdown - the fourth since the first Operation Windpipe was launched in 2003 - targeted four active triad groups, including Sun Yee On, 14K, Wo Shing Wo and Wo Lok Wo.

The locations raided included pubs, karaoke lounges, nightclubs, massage parlours and other known vice dens, as well as guesthouses and flats.

The operation also involved officers from the immigration and customs departments, as well as the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority and the Office of the Telecommunications Authority.