Senior Hong Kong police officers arrested in nightclub tip-off probe

Suspects with ties to anti-triad bureau said to have notified two operators of impending enforcement action after receiving ‘substantial’ payouts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 5:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 12:17am

Two senior police officers and a constable have been arrested as part of an investigation into an alleged corruption racket linked to a special unit of the Hong Kong force that tackles organised crime and triad activity.

A senior inspector serving with the crack organised crime and triad bureau and two fellow serving officers – a superintendent and a constable who used to work for the bureau – are among a dozen people being questioned by Independent Commission Against Corruption agents probing cash-for-tip-offs allegations involving two nightclubs in Wan Chai.

According to a source, the most senior officer involved – former bureau investigator Superintendent Ng Wai-hon, who now heads the unit responsible for intelligence and covert operations on Hong Kong Island – was arrested on Tuesday night.

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The constable who used to work in the bureau is understood to have been in the same unit as Ng, while the senior inspector remains with the specialist organised crime bureau.

All those arrested were still being questioned at ICAC headquarters on Wednesday night and no one had been charged.

In a statement, the commission said the investigation centred on allegations of “a substantial amount of bribes in cash and other forms of advantages from the nightclub operators and their associates as rewards for tipping them off to impending police enforcement action against the nightclubs”.

It added that those arrested may have been “assisting in liquor licence applications or abusing their office in conducting unauthorised enquiries”.

The ICAC said the other suspects included two Wan Chai nightclub operators, three club staff members and four others. Three women were among the dozen arrested.

Even if there is just one officer breaking the law, I’m very saddened
Stephen Lo Wai-chung, police commissioner

Another security source said the bribes the officers accepted ran in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and also took the form of free entertainment services at the two clubs.

It is understood that top-level police management had been alerted about the arrests in an operation codenamed “Mercury”.

The ICAC said the investigation arose from a corruption complaint made last year.

The arrests came a day after Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung revealed that 30 police officers had been arrested last year for offences ranging from assault and theft to rape and drug possession.

Of the 30, six officers had been arrested by the ICAC and three by the Customs and Excise Department. In 2015 the force arrested 15 officers, while the anti-graft agency arrested 16.

“Even if there is just one officer breaking the law, I’m very saddened,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has been ranked the 15th least corrupt place – three spots up on last year – among 176 countries and territories in the latest survey by international anti-graft watchdog Transparency International.