Merchant attacked in $1m robbery

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2006, 12:00am

Gold ornaments seized as courier chief and sister assaulted

A merchant and his younger sister were injured and robbed of $1 million worth of gold ornaments and jewellery in a commercial building in Yau Ma Tei yesterday.

This was at least the second time that Lai Chi-nam, who runs a courier company delivering gold ornaments and jewellery between Hong Kong and the mainland, may have been targeted by robbers.

Three months ago, outside his seventh-floor office in Chun Wo Commercial Centre in Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei, Mr Lai fought off two men who tried to snatch his briefcase containing $300,000 worth of valuables. No one was arrested for that attack.

On Wednesday, he asked a security guard to call police after noticing two men acting suspiciously outside his office at about 1.30pm. The pair left before police arrived.

Yesterday's robbery happened at about 1.30pm as Mr Lai, 47, and his sister, Lai Siu-ling, 45, were carrying the valuables from the mainland to Hong Kong.

The pair were waiting for a lift in the ground-floor lobby of their building in Shanghai Street when Mr Lai noticed three or four men acting suspiciously outside the building.

'As [Mr Lai] was trying to call police on his mobile phone, the gang - one carrying a knife - rushed into the building, assaulting him and his sister,' a police investigator said.

Mr Lai drew out an extendable baton to defend himself and a security guard, 56, armed with a water pipe, came to his assistance, according to police.

The officer said the three victims were injured and the assailants, aged about 30, took off with the luggage containing $1 million worth of gold ornaments and jewellery. The guard then called police.

Officers mounted a wide search of the area but no one was arrested. A knife was seized at the scene. Detectives from Yau Tsim district crime squad are investigating the case.

The three victims suffered minor cuts to their limbs and were being treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital last night.

The robbers, who are between 1.6 metres and 1.7 metres tall, spoke Putonghua or Cantonese with a mainland accent in the incident, according to police.

A police source said that after March's attempted robbery, officers from the Crime Prevention Bureau had offered Mr Lai advice on security measures. The source did not elaborate.

'It is not known whether the victim has stepped up security measures,' the source said.

A police spokeswoman said people should get a security company to deliver cash, gold ornaments or jewellery in order to protect their property.

'If not, they should frequently change the routes, dates and times of delivery in order to prevent such attacks,' she said.