Switching boarding passes common, police say

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 November, 2010, 12:00am

Police have identified a new trend of illegal immigrants switching boarding passes at airports to sneak across borders.

This follows the discovery that a young mainlander had disguised himself as an elderly Caucasian man to avoid detection when he transited in Hong Kong on the way to Vancouver last month. The man, who had switched boarding passes with a US citizen in Hong Kong, was arrested at Vancouver airport.

Cheuk Hau-yip, senior superintendent of the police organised crime and triad bureau, did not comment on the Canadian case but said human smugglers were 'obviously changing their way of operation'.

'In the past, they stowed away on boats or inside cargo.

'Now, we often see them taking planes and switching boarding passes. It does not only happen at Hong Kong's airport, it happens at airports in other countries as well,' he said.

Cheuk said it was common for illegal immigrants to use their own identities to pass through immigration control, then switch boarding passes with others in the departure hall. He believed there were many organised human smuggling groups on the mainland that used Hong Kong as a transit point to move people to other countries.

'One of the obvious reasons is that our airport is larger and has more international flights,' he said.

Meanwhile, police arrested 1,078 people - 633 men and 445 women - in a month-long joint operation with mainland and Macau police, called 'Thunderbolt 10', to combat cross-border crimes.

The operation began on October 8 and ended just ahead of the opening of the Asian Games in Guangzhou at the weekend. It was intended to 'raise public awareness of crime prevention as [the Games] approached', a police spokesman said.

Hong Kong police deployed 12,000 officers and raided about 3,000 entertainment venues. Among those arrested were 387 mostly mainland women suspected of working as prostitutes or being illegal immigrants.

Some HK$18.55 million of betting records and 25 people were arrested in connection with illegal bookmaking. Some 285 people were arrested and HK$160,000 in cash was confiscated in raids of gambling dens.

Drugs with an estimated value of HK$5.19 million were seized during the crackdown. The haul included 5.2kg of ketamine and 3.5kg of cocaine. There were 169 drug arrests.

Police also arrested 45 people from two gangs active in Tsuen Wan and Sheung Shui and seized HK$350,000 in cash. Some HK$10 million in assets were also frozen.

About 180,000 items of pornography and pirated discs, 18,500 litres of illegal fuel, and 640,000 illicit cigarettes were confiscated. Their estimated value is HK$7.8 million.

Police also believed they had destroyed two triad arsenals in Tuen Mun and To Kwa Wan after seizing some firearms and making 11 arrests.

Cheuk said the operation had dealt a major blow to triad revenue sources.

Thunderbolt strikes

Number of arrests in the month-long cross-border crime crackdown: 1,078