More than 600 bottles of liquor bearing famous brand names but thought to contain cheap alcohol were seized from a pub in Tsim Sha Tsui in an anti-triad operation that netted 86 arrests.
One anti-triad officer said the pub was trying to cheat young drinkers who might struggle to tell the difference between cheap and expensive liquor - especially when they had been drinking heavily.
"Initial investigations indicate that the cheap whisky and vodka cost a few dozen dollars per bottle," the officer said. "It was poured into empty bottles labelled with popular brands" that would sell for more than HK$300 per bottle, he said.
Superintendent Lau Shu-sing of the organised crime and triad bureau said the scam was used to guarantee inflated profits for the triads.
"Each client was charged HK$280 but offered unlimited drink in the pub," he said. "As clients were not paying attention, cheap liquor was poured into empty bottles of expensive liquor and offered to customers."
A total of 606 bottles of counterfeit liquor were confiscated during the raid on the pub in Minden Avenue on Sunday. Police said the alcohol was taken to a government laboratory for examination.
The bar is understood to have been controlled by a Sun Yee On triad faction, one of two triad groups targeted in a police operation codenamed "Landchaser".
The other gang is the Wo Shing Wo, members of whom are active in Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsuen Wan.
Chief Superintendent Kwok Ho-fai, head of the organised crime and triad bureau, said an undercover policeman had been deployed because intelligence showed that the two triad gangs were trying to extend their influence and recruit new members.
After collecting evidence, more than 200 officers raided 106 premises across the city and arrested 70 men and 16 women over Saturday and Sunday.
During the raids, police closed down a gambling den in Yuen Long and an unlicensed pub in Tsim Sha Tsui, while also seizing some weapons and a small quantity of ketamine.
The 86 suspects, aged between 14 and 73, were arrested for triad-related offences, drug trafficking, possession of offensive weapons, selling liquor without a licence and running a gambling establishment.
Chief Inspector Chan Tat-ming, also of the organised crime and triad bureau, said more than half of those arrested were suspected triad members and two of them were believed to hold office in the two triad societies. He said four of the suspects, aged between 14 and 16, were arrested for claiming to be triad members.
It is understood that police are hunting for the leaders of the two triad gangs. The operation is continuing throughout the city.
"Our operation has struck a heavy blow against the two triad gangs," Kwok said.
Kwok said the crackdown demonstrated the force's determination to combat triads continuously.
But he said the operation was not linked to a sting earlier this month in Yuen Long in which 130 people were arrested on suspicion of links to the Wo Shing Wo and 14K triad groups.
They included four people who attended a dinner involving members of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's election team and rural leaders which left Leung's campaign embroiled in rumours of triad links.
Those arrested in the previous raid were suspected of crimes including money laundering, running illegal gambling and vice dens and selling illicit fuel.