Hapless Hong Kong criminals: seven robberies that went awry
- Crime doesn’t pay – that’s especially true for these criminals
- They took part in seven robberies in Hong Kong that didn’t go to plan
For every successful robbery, there is a good number that go badly wrong for luckless –or should that be hapless? – criminals.
In Hong Kong last month, a man tried to rob a store claiming he was carrying a bomb. The would-be robber demanded staff at a 7-Eleven in Kowloon’s Cheung Sha Wan neighbourhood to transfer HK$15,000 (US$1,900) into his WeChat Pay account. While he was busy lifting up his shirt to reveal a black object entwined with wires, the cashier managed to press an emergency button to alert police.
According to official statistics, Hong Kong police handled 102 reports of robbery across the city in the first seven months of this year – a drop of 36 per cent compared with the same period last year. We recall some of Hong Kong’s biggest criminal flops. .
1. Rucksack rampage
In September, two masked robbers attempted a US$3 million hold-up at Fanling Town Centre – a shopping centre near the border with China. A 16-year-old and his accomplice attacked a middle-aged man and tried to snatch his rucksack containing the money. Police believe the teenager, who was arrested outside Sheung Shui MTR station, had received an order from his Wo Shing Wo triad boss to rob the man, and had been told when and where to find him.
When the unarmed pair moved in to steal the rucksack, the victim put up a fight. A passer-by intervened and pinned the teenager to the ground until officers arrived and arrested him at the scene.
It’s believed the teenager would have received HK$1 million for completing the job.
In a twist, the man carrying the rucksack may have been no angel, either. It’s believed he could have been a courier hired by underground money changers to take cash across the border. The victim left the scene with his cash-stuffed rucksack before police arrived.
Under Chinese law, travellers can carry up to US$5,000 in foreign currency and 20,000 yuan (US$2,900) over the border without declaring the sum.
2. Manicure maniac
In January, another attempt was made at robbing a 7-Eleven. This time, instead of a fake bomb, the culprit was carrying a nail file.
The scene unfolded at a 7-Eleven on Pei Ho Street, in the working-class Sham Shui Po district, in the early morning. Police say the suspect barged into the store and threatened a female worker with the nail file. Apparently more amused then afraid of the weapon, the employee called the police. The man left empty-handed and officers in the area later arrested him.
3. A taste for diamonds
In 2017, a Jordanian thief swallowed 10 items of jewellery during a heist that went badly wrong. Mohammad Ali Mousa Alzueinat, then 23, had been in Hong Kong for just 24 hours before the raid.
During the botched US$10,000 robbery, he punched, kicked and stamped on employee Chu Sau-ling, rendering her unconscious. Chu managed to trigger the security system, however, and Alzueinat was automatically locked inside the shop. Before police officers arrested him, he swallowed seven diamonds and three rings in a frantic bid to make off with his spoils.
Alzueinat pleaded guilty to one count of robbery in connection with the incident at M&B Diamonds in Central. Besides presumably experiencing agonising indigestion, he was jailed for five years by Hong Kong’s High Court.
4. Light fingers
In 2016, an unemployed man from China bungled a burglary attempt after breaking into a flat in Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island. He accidentally woke the flat’s occupants after grabbing valuables worth more than HK$50,000.
The District Court heard Ye Hong, then 37, randomly targeted the residential block and removed his shoes to avoid waking residents.
However, after snatching a number of valuables, he turned on the light in the bedroom, where Giles Richard Winstone Scott and his wife were sleeping. Brandishing a 15cm-long blade, the suspect told them not to make a noise.
When they did not understand, he showed them a note written in Chinese, that read: “Don’t shout, don’t call police or I will kill you. I want HK$1 million. Change your bank into Chinese. What is your password? Don’t call police after I’m gone or I will kill you.”
As Scott took out his wallet to start writing down credit card details, he and his wife realised the thief was distracted and tackled him. The struggle left the robber with cuts on his right hand and abrasions on his legs.
Ye was arrested after Scott’s wife called police. Officers found his shoes on the roof, and a bag of valuables including an iPhone, two pairs of earrings, three pendants and three necklaces. He’d also grabbed more than HK$3,000 in cash.
5. Service charge
In 2016, a masked robber bungled a bank robbery when he was thwarted by staff who refused to succumb to his pressure. The criminal targeted a Bank of East Asia branch in Mei Foo.
He entered the bank wearing a cap, face mask and a pair of work gloves, and approached a counter. The intruder told the female teller it was a robbery and showed her what appeared to be a black pistol.
However, the teller was seemingly unfazed, and strode off to seek help from her manager, after which the suspect fled empty-handed. The attempt lasted no more than 20 seconds.
6. Double trouble
In 2014, an incompetent robber failed to carry out two Hong Kong bank hold-ups in 48 hours. The middle-aged man was described as smartly dressed, and wearing dark-framed glasses, a tie, a black jacket and leather shoes. Each time, the dapper criminal ran off empty-handed as bank staff ignored his threats and demands.
In one attempt the man, who was carrying a backpack, entered the China Citic Bank branch in Sham Shui Po just after 2.30pm. He handed a female teller a note saying he had a bomb and demanding HK$10,000. But the teller activated the alarm, and the man fled.
Forty-eight hours later, the suspect tried to rob a Wing Lung Bank branch in Kwun Tong. Again, he fled without so much as a dollar when a female cashier ignored his threat and demand for HK$100,000, and hit a panic button.
7. Telltale tech
A special mention goes to the technically inept armed robber who, in 2001, was nabbed after he left behind a pager – a device still popular at the time that buzzes and beeps the owner when he receives a message – at a crime scene.
The man allegedly took HK$10,000 in cash from a hotel – the Bishop Lei International House in the upscale Mid-Levels area – just before 7am, but ran into trouble when he left his pager behind – meaning he could easily be traced after receiving a message.
Adding to the absurdity, the “criminal mastermind” was believed to be a member of staff at the hotel.