Cross-border thieves with a taste for luxury handbags held

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 4:34am

A burglary gang that recruited mainland illegal immigrants into Hong Kong to rob chain stores of designer products has been smashed with the arrest of six men, police say.

An initial probe indicated the gang was linked to at least six reports of break-ins since April in which HK$17 million in valuables were stolen, police said.

Gang members employed the tactic of working fast, raiding a targeted store in less than two minutes, Chief Inspector Wu Ka-yan, of the Hong Kong Island regional crime unit, said yesterday.

They did not tamper with the alarm and security system. Instead, they chose to act as quickly as possible and allowed the security alarm to sound during their raids

"They did not tamper with the alarm and security system," Wu said. "Instead, they chose to act as quickly as possible and allowed the security alarm to sound during their raids."

The gang is understood to have operated in a group of six or seven, with local members acting as lookouts and mainlanders doing the ransacking. It then sold its loot - including handbags and watches - over the internet, police said.

The law finally caught up with them after they broke into Hot Square Brands on Lee Garden Road, Causeway Bay, at about 3.45am yesterday.

The bag boutique is owned by Carmen Choi Ka-man, daughter of toy magnate Francis Choi Chee-ming.

The six fled in a car and a delivery van, lugging 52 handbags and wallets worth more than HK$5 million.

Police intercepted the car in the same district and nabbed three Hongkongers and one mainlander. Two other mainland men, who fled in the van, led police on a high-speed chase to Yau Ma Tei before they were caught at the junction of Nanking and Battery streets. The suspects were aged between 32 and 39.

The three mainlanders reportedly told investigators they sneaked into Hong Kong from Shenzhen on Sunday or Monday.

Superintendent Angus Pullinger said he believed the six were connected to five previous burglaries, in Taikoo Shing, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui.

In one case, the Paris Station shop on Percival Street lost HK$4.87 million in designer handbags, leather belts and silk scarves in August after a No 8 typhoon signal was hoisted. The Taikoo Shing and Causeway Bay branches of Brand Off were raided in April and July, respectively.

"We believe the syndicate has now been put out of action," Pullinger said. Last night, the six men were held for questioning.