A suspected key player in Hong Kong's biggest forged credit card gang was jailed for 12 years yesterday, double the highest sentence previously passed for similar crimes. Henry Yau Man-yiu, 35, took part in a scam which had the potential to cause losses worth about $280 million. Two accomplices, both wanted for similar crimes in Malaysia, were also given long prison sentences. Ng Swee Thiam, 32, was jailed for 10 years and Ng Lea Seng, 33, for 6.5 years. Deputy Judge Colin Jackson said he would have been failing in his duty to the public if he had imposed shorter sentences. 'Anyone anywhere in the world who has a legitimate credit card should be grateful to the Commercial Crime Bureau for investigating and closing these operations down,' he said. The operation, which ran a hi-tech production line at 'factories' in Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun apartments, was the most sophisticated uncovered in Hong Kong. The flats were raided in October and December 1996. One element of the operation was the use of an electronic device to check whether the fake cards would be accepted in shops. The forgers set up a database containing nearly 40,000 account numbers to produce bogus cards used to buy goods worth $44 million. Potential losses could have been in the region of $280 million, prosecutor Peter Callaghan told the Court of First Instance. The judge said: 'These defendants were involved in a large operation involving very substantial sums of money with elaborate planning and equipment and with an undoubted international dimension.' Yau's wife, who is due to give birth to their third child next month, wept as he was sentenced and she hurried towards the dock when he was being led to the cells. His barrister, Ronald Mayne, said there was no evidence to support the prosecution's suspicion that Yau played a key role in the operation. He said the businessman was well known in the community and had a successful legitimate business trading in car accessories. 'Everything he has built up over the years will now collapse and come to a shuddering halt,' the barrister said. Yau was found guilty of two conspiracy to forge charges and two of possessing bogus cards. The other defendants admitted possessing equipment for making false cards as well as immigration offences.