MORE than 40 Hong Kong lifeguards involved in a forged credentials scam could face charges within days, after police wrapped up a territory-wide investigation into the illicit scheme last week. Police uncovered a network dealing in the illegal sale of lifeguard logbooks, allowing inexperienced and unqualified people to work as attendants at private swimming pools across the territory. Legal department experts are poring over police files before advising on criminal charges and recommending whether a coroner's inquest should be held into the drowning of Hong Kong youngster Yip Ching-yeung. The scam was brought to light after seven-year-old Ching-yeung drowned in a private pool at a Clearwater Bay apartment block in August. Police found the lifeguard on duty had gained her job on the basis of a false certificate. The widespread nature of the racket has forced authorities to consider cancelling all 4,000 legitimate lifeguard licences and holding new tests, but this will only be decided after the Legal Department have advised on charges. Chief Inspector Glyn Davies of the Kowloon East Regional Crime Unit admitted: ''Even now, we haven't been able to ascertain the full extent of it. We only took out this cell.'' He said his team of 48 detectives had seized 70 logbooks, including a batch of 30 blank books from one home, but believed at least 130 more were still in circulation. ''We estimate there were about 200 out there. We've got about a third back,'' Chief Inspector Davies said. The scam, in which lifeguards' logbooks changed hands for up to $1,200, involved swimming pool staff employed by the Urban Council and the private sector. The investigation team discovered qualified lifeguards at Hong Kong's Urban Council swimming pools had demanded cash for blank logbooks. ''The system is definitely lax,'' Chief Inspector Davies said. ''A logbook itself is not a qualification. Unfortunately, a number of employers have been taking it to mean job applicants have passed the exam,'' he said. He said unqualified lifeguards had used forged books to gain jobs at private pools, with properly qualified lifeguards at Urban Council pools using their position to sell logbooks. ''They were involved in the forgery but they weren't working improperly because they were qualified,'' Chief Inspector Davies said of the Urban Council lifeguards. Nonetheless, some of these lifeguards are also facing charges.