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Crime in Hong Kong

Thieves launch daring 90-second smash-and-grab raid in one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts, stealing HK$23.5 million in watches and jewellery

Police in citywide search for gang that targeted VIP Watch & Jewellery in Tsim Sha Tsui and put one employee in hospital

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 July, 2018, 1:06pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 July, 2018, 11:15pm

Hong Kong police were scouring the city on Sunday for a gang of thieves who launched a daring daylight raid on a jewellery store – getting away with more than HK$23.5 million (US$3 million) worth of valuables in less than 90 seconds.

The robbery at the VIP Watch & Jewellery store on Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, happened at 10.45am as throngs of people went about their day in one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts.

Three men wearing masks smashed open a glass display cabinet with a hammer and grabbed luxury watches in the hold-up. They were also armed with a knife and retractable baton.

A male employee suffered facial injuries after being beaten with the baton and was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei for treatment.

Superintendent Wong Chi-wai said the thieves had escaped with a haul of at least 34 Swiss-made luxury watches and 39 American-made bracelets, with a total estimated value of HK$23.5 million.

The stolen watches included pieces from Hublot and Richard Mille while the bracelets were made by StingHD.

At least five employees and three female customers were in the store at the time.

A police source said the raid took less than 90 seconds.

Wong said one of the robbers was possibly of South Asian descent, while the two others were Chinese who spoke fluent Cantonese. They were covered up in hats, rain jackets and masks.

The three men were seen fleeing the scene to nearby Lock Road, where they escaped in a getaway car driven by a fourth man.

Gone in 27 seconds … video shows Hong Kong thieves snatching jewellery worth HK$5 million at busy Harbour City shopping mall

“From our preliminary investigations, this getaway car is believed to have been stolen in Yuen Long district in March,” Wong said.

Around noon on Sunday a silver seven-seater car, similar in make and model to the suspected getaway car, was found ablaze on Tam Kon Chau Road, near Mai Po San Tsuen in Lok Ma Chau.

The source believed the three robbers fled to mainland China after they handed over the loot to a partner at the site where the getaway car was torched to destroy evidence.

The male employee was targeted because he was speaking on his mobile phone when the robbers rushed into the shop. “It appeared the employee was beaten because the gang thought he tried to make a phone call,” the source said.

He said one of the robbers threatened the customers and other staff with a knife while another smashed open the display cabinet with a hammer. The source said they broke that cabinet because it was near the exit. The most expensive items were stored in another cabinet in one corner of the shop.

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He believed the shop was targeted because there were several possible escape routes and police would take time to trace them.

The source said the three robbers could have left Hong Kong via the Lok Ma Chau control point or Lok Ma Chau Spur Line control point. Officers were checking CCTV footage.

Hong Kong has been hit by a series of high-profile robberies, the most recent taking place in May, when two men prised open the door of the display window of a jewellery store in Harbour City shopping centre, Tsim Sha Tsui, and snatched HK$5 million worth of jewellery.

Since March last year, there have been six smash-and-grab raids, which netted thieves HK$70 million in stolen valuables.

This prompted two local jewellery industry associations to issue security warnings and advice to their members. The biggest case also happened in broad daylight, when three tourists from Colombia allegedly stole HK$40 million worth of valuables from a store in Central in March.