AN endangered species protection liaison group has been set up by the Government to curtail the rhino horn trade and improve enforcement of controls. But the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international concern group on animal conservation, doubted whether it would work without giving police greater powers. The liaison group was established after the agency found that rhino products were on sale in two-thirds of Chinese pharmacies in Hong Kong. The group, to be chaired by Frank Lau Sin-pang, assistant director of the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD), would combine the force of the department, customs, and police. The department yesterday admitted it had difficulties gathering intelligence to tackle businesses that involved organised crime. ''Information we received showed people behind the illicit trade were criminals and had triad involvement,'' said principal information officer, Pauline Ling Po-lin. She said customs and police had a better network in terms of manpower and equipment and their involvement was necessary. The group is to gather information on the illegal trade in endangered species involving Hong Kong, plan and co-ordinate enforcement, and co-ordinate liaison with national and international agencies. However, EIA's Hong Kong representative, Heena Patel, said: ''It does not give police full power. It's just an addition to their other duties. We do not know to what extent police are involved. ''Liaison group could mean anything and is questionable to us,'' she said. ''It is a fact this is a serious crime and has triad involvement. It must come under the control of the police. Otherwise, it is not going to work.'' Ms Patel said the agency urged the Government to set up a special task force run by police. She said it was hoped the liaison group was not only to pay lip-service to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species (CITES). She said the agency would recommend the CITES impose trade sanction in Hong Kong if the Government did not take the issue seriously. So far this year, the AFD has seized $3.4 million worth of rhino products in 423 raids throughout the territory.