Suspected smugglers fished out of water

THREE suspected smugglers from the mainland were pulled from the sea yesterday when their high-powered speedboat caught fire while being chased by one of the newly-delivered marine police launches south of Po Toi Island.

The speedboat later capsized, dropping a new left-hand drive Mercedes-Benz into the sea.

This was one of three incidents yesterday as part of a new anti-smuggling campaign Operation Disavow.

The three-man crew rescued yesterday suffered only minor injuries.

Their five-engined vessel was with a second speedboat, also with a Benz on board, spotted coming out from Stanley Peninsula at about 4.30 pm.

The police launch chased one for 20 minutes along Tathong Channel until it suddenly caught fire in the area of the cockpit, probably from overheated cables.

The three crew members, one of whom was burned on the hands and legs, jumped overboard before it capsized.

Officers in a speedboat chased the second boat but it won the race to Chinese territorial waters by ''a neck''.

And shortly after 8 pm, the team intercepted a Chinese vessel in Cheung Sha Wan and seized 80 second-hand motorcycles believed to be bound for China.

Ten crew members were detained for further investigations.

The task force nabbed three Hongkong men at a Sai Kung beach, but missed the car on board one of two speedboats that sped off when police swooped at 3 am.

Ten men ran in different directions and some dived into the water to evade capture.