Hong Kong private eye Daniel Tsang 'abandoned' by Northern Irish police

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 December, 2013, 6:14am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 8:43pm

A former Hong Kong policeman has been wrongly imprisoned on the mainland for his role in a sting operation intended to help Northern Irish police trap a gangster, the man's son said.

Pakko Tsang accuses authorities in Belfast of abandoning his father, Daniel Tsang Chi-fai, after he helped nail Paul "Wobbly Boots" Meehan, who was smuggling illicit cigarettes and dealing in guns and drugs.

Daniel Tsang was arrested in Qingdao, Shandong province in 2008 in connection with a shipment of counterfeit cigarettes bound for Northern Ireland as part of Operation Eclat, a sting to catch Meehan.

Tsang, 53, is serving a 10-year sentence for dealing in counterfeit cigarettes handed down in December 2010. But he claims he is the victim of a mix-up by mainland police, according to a report in the Financial Times on Friday.

Pakko Tsang, a detective, returned to Hong Kong late last night after visiting his father in a prison in Zhangzhou , Fujian province.

Pakko maintains his father's innocence and is angered by the lack of assistance from the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Japan Tobacco International, who used Tsang as a middleman in the operation to trap Meehan.

"My father is not a criminal, he is not a gangster," Pakko told the Post last night.

"I'm so angry at the PSNI and JTI; all of them are lying and I don't know what to do."

Pakko says his father is suffering from depression and pain in his hand due to the hard labour he is forced to perform.

"He's so sad and I haven't seen him smile or laugh these past few years," Pakko said.

Daniel Tsang left the Hong Kong police after two decades in 1998 to become a private investigator. In 2008, he was assigned to the Meehan case through Douglas Consulting, a small Hong Kong-based firm hired by the tobacco company.

Company records show the firm's sole director and shareholder was Craig Douglas. The company has now closed.

Pakko says he is frustrated that Douglas never explained why his father was detained. Douglas could not immediately be reached for comment last night.

"I'm the son of my father; I deserve to know what is happening, but I don't know anything," he said

In a three-page confidential PSNI document - seen by the Sunday Morning Post - JTI is listed as the partner agency working with Northern Irish authorities to catch Meehan.

"This is a highly organised criminal enterprise with worldwide dimensions," the document stated, adding that the approach was intended to "dismantle and disrupt" Meehan's gang.

One specific objective was to "ensure the safety of all personnel involved in the operation".

Tsang pretended to be the head of a counterfeit cigarette factory on the mainland and managed to convince Meehan to purchase illicit goods.

Shortly afterwards, Meehan was arrested in Belfast. In June 2010, he was sentenced to 21 years in jail after admitting offences linked to guns, drugs and evading cigarette duty. The case was hailed as a huge success for British and Irish police.

"They got all the honours but they forgot about my father," Pakko said, who said repeated requests for help fell of deaf ears..

"At first, the PSNI said they would talk to the Chinese embassy and explain to Chinese police about my father and I felt great. But then they didn't meet and I don't know why."

He had also demanded JTI explain its role and compensate his father, to no avail.

Pakko has made regular visits to his father in prison.

He was joined on his visit yesterday by his older sister, Jenny, who had not seen their father for three years. "She was crying and it was so sad," she said.

The PSNI refused to comment while JTI said it "simply [did] not know what, if anything transpired between the authorities of Northern Ireland and China that would have led to the … conviction of Mr Tsang".