POLICE not pot-plants yesterday stood at the electric-operated mahogany doors to the penthouse boardroom at the Allied Group's Wan Chai headquarters.
Dark-suited detectives lounged inside, waiting for instructions as armed, jack-booted colleagues from the Police Tactical Unit filed in formation into lifts and crunched over marble floors more used to the shuffle of Italian leather.
Operation Dapsone, as the Commercial Crime Bureau dubbed their raid, seemed to spare little thought for any hard-won business reputation.
It was possible to wander, as several visiting businessmen did, to the top floors of the Allied Kajima Building in Gloucester Road and into the heart of one of the biggest company searches ever mounted.
The building management, its own guard force and police finally managed to enforce strict security at the ground floor.
But those huge automatic doors to Allied boss Lee Ming Tee's 24th floor penthouse endured a constant procession of suits and uniforms in a hubbub of urgent police business.
After seeing a junior police officer question a senior company officer over his identity card, an employee claiming to be a ''senior secretary'' said: ''This is nothing really, business as usual.'' Clerks and secretaries wandered aimlessly in and out, clearly out of sorts with such inter-ruptions to their early morning routines.
One American businessman strolled from Allied's offices bemused at the sudden illness afflicting a director with whom he was to meet over a property deal.
It soon soured when he noticed large numbers of police and almost as many press surrounding the building.
''I was meant to meet someone very, very senior, but suddenly I'm told he has been struck down by a mysterious illness,'' said the man, in town especially for business.
''I could get nowhere upstairs, there were lots and lots of people hanging around the doorways . . .
''I can only guess now they were police.
''No one said anything about any search, I was simply told that the man I was supposed to meet had come down with a sudden and unfortunately mysterious illness.
''Now I understand why.'' At mid-afternoon, uniformed police presence evaporated.
CCB officers emerged with nine suitcases and a box filled with documents.
A truck load of cardboard boxes are waiting nearby for a full removal operation in several days' time.
Similar scenes were enacted at scores of other mahogany adorned offices across the territory.
And it seems business will be anything but normal around Allied for a while yet.