34 held for New World attacks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2007, 12:00am

Police have made 34 arrests and searched more than 800 premises as part of their investigation into attacks on New World Development properties.

Officers have interviewed 550 people, including at least 150 New World employees, the force's director for crime and security, John Lee Ka-chiu, said yesterday. Investigators were targeting the 'real' masterminds behind the case, he said.

But he said more time was needed in light of the large scale of the investigation by the force's organised crime and triad bureau. He said police would continue to contact relevant people and carry out chemical examination of the evidence collected.

Nineteen premises owned by New World Development were damaged in a wave of attacks on July 4 and 5, which included vehicle ram-raids on three buildings.

Asked if the police had exchanged information with their mainland counterparts, Mr Lee told Commercial Radio that intelligence exchange with the mainland security authorities was normal in any serious crime case.

But he added: 'Our preliminary view is that the scope of the case was within Hong Kong. Of course, we would not rule out any possibility.'

He also noted that uncovering the motive behind the attacks was the focus of the investigation.

His comments came a day after acting deputy director of public prosecution, Kevin Zervos, told the Court of First Instance that he believed a dispute over a terminated tenancy at a disco in the New World Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui with landlord Hong Kong Island Development, where 25 people were arrested for drug offences, could be one of the reasons behind the wave of attacks.

Separately, Mr Lee told an RTHK programme that he believed the introduction of sniffer dogs and forensic medical experts during police inspections of entertainment premises could help curb the rising number of youngsters taking drugs.

Speaking on the same programme, police operations director Tsang Wai-hung revealed that officers had gathered information on more than 30 drivers involved in the slow-drive protests earlier this month, which caused traffic jams en route to the airport for up to seven hours. Possible prosecution of the drivers was being considered.