Passenger-smuggling plot denied

CUSTOMS and immigration officers at Kai Tak airport yesterday denied conspiring to smuggle passengers for cash rewards.

Four airport officers and an unemployed man pleaded not guilty to a total of 34 charges relating to alleged incidents over 18 months to May last year.

The charges included seeking bribes of up to $60,000 for slipping travellers through unchecked and forging passports and identity cards.

Six Chinese with allegedly forged Venezuelan passports were said to have been allowed to pass through the territory to Canada.

In the District Court yesterday were chief Customs officer Lee Kang-sun, 42, senior Customs officer Choi Kam-cheung, 36, senior immigration assistants Hung Hak-sing, 31, and Chan So-mei, 35, and unemployed businessman Ng Wai-man, 35.

Ng and Lee denied conspiring to offer $15,000 to senior immigration assistant Hui Kwok-wa to allow six Chinese citizens holding forged Venezuelan passports through Lowu immigration control point.

They also denied conspiring to offer senior immigration officer Chan Yuk-lin $20,000 to assist the same Chinese citizens' departure to Canada through Kai Tak.

Ng and Lee pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to forge Hong Kong identity cards and passports.

And they denied conspiring to accept $60,000 from Leung Chun-shan so Lee would allow him and two others to avoid being searched when they returned to the airport from Malaysia on May 19, 1993.

Lee also pleaded not guilty to accepting $30,000 from Leung.

Ng, Lee and Choi further denied soliciting a $60,000 advantage from Leung so Choi would allow Leung to pass through the airport's Customs counter without being searched between December 1, 1992 and May 19, 1993.

Lee and Hung denied twice conspiring to accept $2,000 from Leung to search Immigration Department computer records to see if certain people were on the immigration watch list.

Lee and Chan denied conspiring to accept a total of $24,000 from Leung to check a dozen more names on the computer.

The conspiracy allegedly took place between December 1, 1991, and May 19, 1993.

In total, Lee pleaded not guilty to 15 charges, Hung denied eight, Ng denied six, Chan denied four and Choi denied one charge.

The trial opens today.