A court hears the Mongkok business had a turnover of $165m in four years The mastermind of a vice syndicate yesterday admitted conspiring to run 24 brothels in Mongkok over four years after three constables went undercover to infiltrate the business. Five co-accused also pleaded guilty at the Court of First Instance to involvement in the business. Seized accounting books revealed it had a total turnover of more than $165 million between 1998 and last year. The court heard that more than 200 people were arrested, including the six defendants, during an operation codenamed Fire Lily on May 7 last year. It is believed to be the biggest vice syndicate uncovered by Hong Kong police. Cheng Wai-keung, 41, the syndicate's mastermind, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to keep 24 vice establishments between April 1998 and May 7 last year, and two charges of conspiracy to deal with the proceeds of an indictable offence. The court heard Cheng kept several bank accounts to deposit and transfer earnings and to issue cheque payments to other syndicate members. Co-accused Choi Kong, 45, and Yau Kim-fei each admitted to conspiring to keep 10 brothels and one of money laundering. Chung Wing-hei, 51, admitted he conspired with others to keep five brothels and one charge of money laundering. Hau Yuen-fai, 35, and Leong Io-kuong, 31, each pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy to keep two brothels. Senior assistant director of Public Prosecutions, Alain Sham, prosecuting along with Anthea Pang and Kelvin Lee Ka-yun, said the syndicate largely employed mainland illegal immigrants and two way-permit holders to work as prostitutes. There were also local prostitutes and women from Thailand and Vietnam. Mr Sham said the 24 brothels in Mongkok were partitioned into rooms each furnished with a TV set, a bed and a bathroom. The establishments were found to have secret passages or concealed rooms to facilitate the escape of prostitutes during police raids. The premises also had closed circuit cameras to monitor areas outside the premises. The syndicate advertised in newspapers, magazines and on the internet, some of which involved semi-nude pictures of prostitutes. Customers would each be charged $420 for services, with more than one-third going to the brothel boss. Between March and May last year, three undercover police constables infiltrated the syndicate and were employed in some of the brothels. They were told that each would be given $20,000 as compensation if they were arrested and jailed. Mr Justice Lunn adjourned sentencing until December 1 and an argument on a confiscation order will be heard at a later date.