Police crack gang that recruited children to sell drugs to pupils

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 July, 2009, 12:00am

A syndicate said to have recruited teenagers to sell illegal drugs has been smashed after an alleged core figure and two suspected traffickers including a 14-year-old boy were arrested in Mong Kok early yesterday, police say.

The gang assigned its recruits to find new clients - mainly students - and offered free drugs to lure teenagers, according to investigators.

The three males, aged 22, 17 and 14, were arrested in a restaurant in Hoi Ting Road at about 1.30am by officers who had been investigating the syndicate for a month.

They were among 11 people arrested in two separate anti-drugs operations in the same district yesterday. Shortly after 2am, eight people - including two schoolchildren - were arrested for suspected drug taking at a well-known karaoke club.

Police who arrested the three in the restaurant said 28 grams of ketamine were found on the 14-year-old, a Form One dropout.

A further eight grams of ketamine were found in the 22-year-old man's flat in nearby Portland Street. Police said the man, believed to be a 14K triad member, was the key figure of the syndicate.

'Initial investigation revealed that the 14-year-old boy had worked as a drug trafficker for several months,' Mong Kok district operations officer Chief Inspector Li Chi-chung said.

The boy was paid sums ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars for each job, he said.

The boy, who was repeating Form One, dropped out of Holy Carpenter Secondary School in February. He had attended school in Tsuen Wan before enrolling in the Hung Hom school in September.

The 17-year-old, who is unemployed, is suspected to be one of the syndicate's latest recruits.

Chief Inspector Li said he believed the syndicate had been operating for several months and sold illegal drugs mainly to students in the district.

'The syndicate used youngsters to peddle drugs because they get along easily with students and teenagers,' he said. 'The gang also assigned its members to go to parks, playgrounds, games centres and cybercafes to find new clients.'

He believed free drugs were also offered by the syndicate to lure teenagers into taking drugs. Using such young people to sell drugs was 'shameful' and police would ask the courts to impose tougher sentences on people who exploited minors by using them to sell drugs, he said.

Police were hunting for other members of the syndicate. The three suspects were being detained for questioning last night and no charges had been laid.

In a separate operation, officers from Kowloon West special duty squad disguised as customers hired a room in a Neway Karaoke Box in Nathan Road shortly after midnight to carry out surveillance after receiving a tip-off that there was a drug party there.

They raided one of the rooms at about 2am, arrested eight suspected drug users and traffickers and seized 28.2 grams of drugs believed to be ketamine and cocaine. The five males and three females, aged 16 to 26, included two Form Three pupils.

'They tried to use a decent karaoke to take drugs in an attempt to avoid arrest,' Senior Superintendent Edward Leung Ka-ming, head of the Kowloon West regional crime unit, said.

Police were checking whether there was a trend for drug users to switch to such clubs after police crackdowns on upstairs pubs in the district that were known drug haunts, Mr Leung said.

'We will tackle youth drug abuse by intelligence collection and enforcement action,' he said.

Neway Karaoke Box spokesman William Siu Kin-wai said the chain, which had 22 outlets across the city, would not tolerate any drug use on its premises and would co-operate fully with police.

The two cases are part of a city-wide crackdown on youth drug abuse.

The operation came after a spate of ketamine abuse incidents by schoolchildren.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen recently took personal charge of the battle against drugs after saying youth drug abuse was 'much worse than expected'.