Senior police yesterday told of a crackdown on a sophisticated international people-smuggling ring, known as the 'swap the boarding pass' syndicate, operating out of Hong Kong International Airport. In the latest incident, two people from the mainland, a man, 23, and woman, 31, were arrested in Hong Kong on Thursday after they were caught trying to board a flight to Japan on passes registered under different names. The pair, from Fujian province, had been booked on a return flight to Kuala Lumpur. But it is understood that instead of boarding they met a syndicate member in the transit lounge and swapped boarding passes. The deputy district commander of airport police, Mike Howard, said the method was typical of the more sophisticated air people-smuggling rackets operating across Asia. 'They [the arrested pair] would not have stopped in Japan,' he said. 'They would probably have been met by another syndicate member in a transit lounge in Japan and provided with another ticket, a false passport and even a fake green card for the United States.' Mr Howard said Thursday's arrests were part of 'a steady stream of people' detected using the same method. Under an experimental initiative launched by Hong Kong airport police and immigration authorities, more than 20 people have been detected and prosecuted over the past 12 months for attempting to obtain services by deception. Mr Howard said the practice of reconciling boarding passes with passports at the gate had severely hampered the work of the syndicate. But the racket was known to operate more freely in airports elsewhere in Asia.