Police round up 11 thought to have helped mainlanders get UK visas via Hong Kong

Gang believed to have pocketed more than HK$5.5 million

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 8:19pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 9:50pm

Police have arrested 11 people thought to be key to a scamming syndicate that has helped mainlanders get UK visas via the British consulate in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong and Guangdong police rounded up the suspects in the joint operation in the city and the mainland last week, according to police. Among the arrested was the suspected mastermind of the syndicate, who was picked up at his Cheung Sha Wan home.

Police seized bogus documents like bank statements and work permits.

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Officers said they thought the gang had helped about 100 mainlanders, mostly men, apply for the visas at the British consulate in Hong Kong since 2014, charging each successful applicant 150,000 yuan (HK$169,000).

A force insider said the gang was believed to have pocketed more than HK$5.5 million, with more than 30 successful applicants, thought to have headed straight to the UK from the city.

“We believe [the migrants] remained in Britain after their visa expired and worked illegally there,” the source said.

He said investigators were told mainland applicants would find it easier to get the visa in Hong Kong than on the mainland.

They began investigating the syndicate in October after the British consulate raised concerns, according to Superintendent Kwan King-pan of the force’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau.

During the five-month investigation, officers exchanged intelligence with British agencies to identify the key figures of the syndicate.

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The gang searched for potential applicants in different provinces like Guangdong, Fujian and Sichuan, and that applicants were told they would be refunded if their applications failed, the source said.

According to police, the gang helped applicants make appointments with the consulate, and took them to the consulate after they arrived in the city on the day of their appointments, as well as providing the forged papers.

“Our investigation showed [the migrants] left Hong Kong for Britain if their visa was granted,” another source said.

Police on both sides of the border made the arrests on Wednesday and Thursday last week.

Hong Kong police arrested two men and one woman, all locals.They included the suspected ringleader, a 62-year-old man who runs an emigration consultancy firm. Police froze the man’s bank accounts, which contained hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The three had been released on bail while investigations continue.

Guangdong police arrested eight people, including a Hong Kong woman. Kwan said they were suspected core members of the syndicate.

He said the British consulate in Hong Kong was reviewing about 100 applications suspected to have links to the syndicate, and that further arrests were possible.

A UK Home Office spokesman said it was working with local ­police on the case but would not comment further.