10 held for smuggling stolen cars out of HK
Ada Lee and Simpson Cheung
Hong Kong organised crime detectives are probing a possible link with the Mongolian underworld after they broke up a car-smuggling gang in Tuen Mun yesterday and arrested 10 people.
A team of officers from the force's organised crime and triad bureau swooped on the gang in Lung Kwu Tan as they loaded two stolen luxury Lexus cars worth nearly HK$1 million on to the back of a truck for transportation to a waiting smuggling launch.
While declining to say where they believed final destination of the stolen cars was, the police said one of those arrested was a man from Mongolia who they described as the 'buyer'' of the two cars.
The Mongolian man is understood to have been in Hong Kong as a visitor. He was one of eight men and two women, aged 31 to 42, who were questioned last night and could face charges of handling stolen goods.
Police superintendent Wong Chi-kwong, of the organised crime and triad bureau, believed yesterday's operation had broken up a group which had been operating for 'quite a period of time''.
'We have been following the group for some time, and took action in Lung Kwu Tan after receiving a tip-off telling us they would be there,' Wong said.
The suspects were arrested at around noon in a recycling yard in Lung Kwu Tan near Cenfa Villa after the police received a tip-off.
The cars were being loaded into a container on a truck, and the suspects were preparing to drive the truck to a nearby pier when arrested, Wong said.
He did not rule out the possibility that the cars would have been shipped by sea to the mainland or countries in Southeast Asia.
The two Lexus RX300 cars, one silver and one black, were reported stolen in Tseung Kwan O and Hung Hom before dawn yesterday.
Wong said the police could not say yet whether the Lexus thefts were related to other car crimes. The cars and truck would be sent to a government laboratory for forensic tests.
Police figures show the number of stolen cars has been declining from 99 in 2009 to 77 in 2010.
In the first three months of this year, 13 cars were reported stolen. The police said recovery of the cars largely relied on tip-offs.
In recent years, car smuggling between Hong Kong and the mainland has been on the decline but the illegal trade has been a feature of Hong Kong's underworld for decades.
In April 2006 customs officers confiscated 45 dismantled cars and parts on a vessel heading for the mainland. All the smuggled goods were worth about HK$900,000 in Hong Kong but could be sold for about HK$2 million on the mainland. It was not known whether the seized cars were registered in Hong Kong or reported stolen in the city.
In June 2004, Guangdong authorities raided an illegal car assembly workshop and seized 100 used engines. The engines had been smuggled from Hong Kong and would have been pieced together to form luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The raid was the biggest case of smuggled car parts in the province that year.
A few months later in November 2004, Guangdong authorities smashed the biggest car-smuggling syndicate uncovered in five years. The syndicate smuggled at least 558 vehicles with a combined value of about 230 million yuan (HK$274.9 million) into the mainland and had been active in Macau and Guangdong for three years.
Between March 2001 and April 2004, the gang shipped an average of one car every two days from Macau to Guangdong, Xinhua reported.