THE Independent Commission Against Corruption has arrested 14 people, including two former civil servants, after unearthing a criminal syndicate dealing in textile export quotas. One man was released on bail and the others remain in ICAC custody while the investigation continues. A former assistant trade officer from the Trade Department and a former trade control officer from the Customs and Excise Department were detained. The Trade Department officer resigned two days ago. ICAC's Assistant Director of Operations Mr Mike Bishop said a ''very important and sizeable criminal network'' had made many millions of dollars in a conspiracy which involved bribing public officials for the export quotas. ''The fraud would be very difficult to perpetuate without the co-operation of government officials charged with overseeing the procedures of obtaining quotas,'' Mr Bishop said. ''It's more than possible that there are corrupt individuals still working in various government departments.'' Mr Bishop said there were two main fraudulent means of obtaining the quotas. One was to misrepresent the origin of manufactured goods. For example, goods manufactured in China being declared as Hongkong-made. The other was to generate bogus trading figures to show that there had been trading between various manufacturers and exporters with overseas purchasers. The non-existent trade was then used as the basis to apply for export quotas, since the number which can be obtained is based on trade performance of the previous year. The quotas involved in the case were mainly for the export of women's clothing to North America. The Chairman of the Hongkong Garment Manufacturers Association, Mr James Tien Pei-chun, said in the case of hot categories for the North American market, the quota made up 20 per cent of the products' value. This means a quota can cost up to $2 for a shirt sold at $10. He said quotas for the European Community were worthless now since national trade boundaries had disappeared. Austria, Canada, the EC, Finland, Norway and the United States still use the quota system for Hongkong goods. Mr Tien said those who tried to obtain quotas by fraud would be easily traced and caught because of the widespread use of computers. US authorities monitored Hongkong's quotas very closely. Mr Tien said the existing system allowing manufacturers to sell up to half their quotas was reasonable. He disagreed that more restriction should be applied. ''The more difficult you make it to obtain a quota, the more tempting it will be for people to get them by corrupt means,'' Mr Tien said.