A nine-month undercover operation led police to smash a triad gang and uncover its secret brothels that had been converted from two toilets and a shop in a Yuen Long shopping centre, police said on Thursday morning.
The operation ended with the arrest of 86 people, including an alleged faction leader.
The 150-sq-ft one-woman brothels, which also served as homes for mainland sex workers, were discovered on the second floor of a 15-storey block in Wang Fat Path during a police raid on Wednesday.
According to police, the brothels had been operating for about 10 months and were controlled by the Yuen Long faction of the 14K triad society, which recruited mainland women to work as prostitutes.
The shopping centre is on the first and second floors of the building. Police say the mall is very quiet, with most of its shops vacated.
“We believe the gang took advantage of this feature and converted the male and female toilets into vice establishments,” Chief Inspector Law Kwok-hoi of the New Territories North regional crime unit said.
“I think it is the first time police have discovered public toilets have been turned into brothels,” he said.
The gang also turned two seventh-floor units into four brothels in the same building.
To avoid detection, it only took in regular customers who had to call its mafoos [[male escort] and tell the secret code. During surveillance, the brothels had clients coming in between 12 noon and 4am
“An initial investigation showed up to 100 customers visited the seven brothels a day,” Law said. “Each client was charged HK$250 for sex service but the gang took HK$100.”
The chief inspector believes the gang pocketed at least HK$300,000 a month from illegal vice business.
At about 1am on Wednesday, police raided the seven brothels and arrested four mainland women and a Hong Kong man.
Two of the mainlanders climbed out of the windows from two seventh-floor brothels and tried to clamber down drainpipes in a bid to escape arrest. They were caught after they accidentally fell to the third-floor canopy while descending and injured their legs.
The latest operation was only part of a series of raids against the triad faction which also involved in other illegal activities such as gambling, drug trafficking and extortion.
The raids, involving more than 100 officers, came after an undercover police agent was deployed last April to collect evidences. Police began arresting suspects on Wednesday.
On Wednesday and Thursday, (Wed and Thur) police arrested 35 men and 51 women, aged 17 to 72, and seized weapons and a small amount of illegal drugs.
The arrests included the alleged faction leader, also known as “Yuen Kong Hak” or “Hak Chai”, and 23 of his henchmen.
He is said to have held the rank of a “red-pole fighter” in the triad society – a senior member who acts as enforcer.
The 86 suspects, including 37 mainland women, were arrested on suspicion of committing various offences including claiming to be members of a triad society, drug trafficking and operating illegal gambling establishments.
By Thursday afternoon, all the suspects were being held for questioning and none of them had been charged.
Police’s figures show there were 1,629 reports of triad-related crimes in the first 10 months of last year, a 6.6 per cent drop from 1,745 in the same period of 2012.