Turning informer brings rewards - and more arrests

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 April, 2010, 12:00am

In the month between former drug dealer Andy Ng's arrest and his appearance in court, police officers from Kwun Tong's Special Duty Squad called him every second day to ask how his business was going.

Each time, they left a HK$100 note hidden somewhere on the street for Ng to retrieve. They never gave him the money, it was always hidden in a gap in the wall, or a hole in a street barricade.

The officers wanted him to lead them to another arrest, which he did. A buyer from another triad called him and asked for HK$100 worth of ketamine. Ng offered to sell HK$200 worth instead. Police gave Ng 3.5 grams to take to the buyer. As soon as the transaction was complete, officers arrested the buyer. Ng does not know what happened to him.

Ng was originally charged with trafficking, but this was later changed to possession. Trafficking of dangerous drugs carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a HK$7 million fine. The maximum penalty for possession is seven years' jail and a HK$1 million fine.

'Once you hand in the person, you can choose between a prize [drugs] or prize money,' Ng said. He chose the cash reward of HK$500. 'The principle is you don't have to hand in your own people [from the same triad],' he said, adding that triad members were well aware of these transactions.

Four different officers from the squad contacted him during that period. He said the officers' superior did not know about their deals.

Dr Peter Halliday, former assistant police commissioner, said he was not aware of Ng's case, but there was a formal procedure for those who wished to use informers. 'They [informers] are a valuable source of information. A lot of important cases get solved because of them. If you wish to use a particular informer, you have to go through a register. Any dealings, meetings and money paid have to be documented.'

A veteran police detective said officers would not take the risk of providing drugs as a reward to informants during an investigation as this was a criminal offence.

'Sometimes we provide rewards in cash, and one type of reward could be police helping to request reduced sentencing in court if the informant is arrested and prosecuted for a criminal offence,' he said. 'We have many types of rewards that are legal but cannot be disclosed,' he said.

The detective said it had become more difficult for the force to send undercover officers to deal with drug trafficking among teenagers given that some drug users are as young as 10.

Previously, fresh graduates were used to infiltrate gangs. 'But now, how can we find an officer that would pass for a 12-year-old?' he said.