The Immigration Department and mainland authorities, in the first case of its kind, have cracked a syndicate that arranged for mainlanders to enter Hong Kong with legitimate travel documents then provided them with fake identity cards and helped them find work in local restaurants. At least 57 people were arrested in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and elsewhere in Guangdong on Tuesday night in an operation codenamed 'Forestrike'. During the swoop, 11 core syndicate members - all from northeast China - were arrested in Guangdong. The gang was thought to have operated for at least six months, the department's assistant director Corrado Chow said. It recruited people in northeast China and took them to Shenzhen, before arranging for them to come to Hong Kong as tourists. Then it gave them forged ID cards made in Shenzhen to cover up their visitor status and help them get jobs in Hong Kong restaurants. 'Each of them would have paid about 20,000 yuan [HK$23,150] for the one-stop service,' Chow said. 'Preliminary estimations indicated the syndicate raked in up to 3 million yuan from the illicit business ... and arranged for about 100 people to work in Hong Kong.' Chow said mainland enforcers found 11 card-manufacturing workshops in Shenzhen from which they seized about 200 forged Hong Kong identity cards and home return permits, as well as equipment including computers, printers, scanners, a die-cutting machine and a laminating machine. He said syndicate members not only provided the mainlanders with hiding places in Hong Kong but also accompanied them to open bank accounts into which their wages could be paid. In Hong Kong, the Immigration Department raided six homes and six restaurants and found 15 forged ID cards. It arrested 26 people aged 26 to 56. Of them, 14 are mainlanders from places such as Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces in the northeast who were suspected of using fake ID cards to get jobs here. Most of them were working as dish washers, while two were employed to wait on tables. Nine of the others arrested were owners of the restaurants, including two in Central. Three other illegal workers from Indonesia - who were former domestic helpers and not linked to the case - were also caught. Chow said the fake ID cards were poorly made and most people could spot the differences when comparing them to the genuine cards. Chow said the department had started to exchange intelligence with mainland counterparts in March and was still investigating the operation. Anyone who uses or possesses a forged identity card is liable to a maximum fine of HK$100,000 and 10 years' jail. Visitors are not allowed to take up employment, whether paid or unpaid, without the permission of the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and two years' jail. Employers of illegal workers also face a fine of HK$350,000 and imprisonment for three years.