8 held in Hong Kong over torture and detention of businessman in mainland China hotel room
Victim, deprived of water and food for 3 days, was beaten in hotel room until he signed a HK$6 million debt note, police said
A 65-year-old Hong Kong businessman was imprisoned and tortured in a Shenzhen hotel for three days before being rescued by mainland Chinese officers earlier this year, prompting local police on Monday to arrest the alleged ringleader and seven core figures of a cross-border criminal syndicate behind the plot.
The businessman was not given any water or food and was also beaten in the hotel room until he signed a HK$6 million (US$769,200) debt note, according to Superintendent Chung Lai-yee of Hong Kong police’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau.
Despite signing the note, the victim was not allowed to leave and was then told to pay another 1 million yuan (US$145,230), she said on Tuesday. His ordeal ended when Shenzhen police raided the room on February 10, hours after his family made a report to them.
Officers found the injured victim and arrested three mainland men and a Hong Kong man in the hotel room. The Hongkonger arrested worked for a financial intermediary company in Mong Kok the syndicate was thought to operate.
In the days after the incident, authorities across the border arrested another 23 mainlanders in connection with the case. Most of the suspects – five men and 18 women – worked for a finance company in Shenzhen controlled by the racket.
More than 60,000 debt notes, over 7,000 bank cards and some bank books were seized in the office of the Shenzhen company which the syndicate also used to store backup documents.
After being told of the plot, the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau began investigating the syndicate.
A law enforcement source said the syndicate, headed by two Hong Kong brothers, controlled more than 50 finance companies and financial intermediary firms in the city and was involved in loan sharking activities over the past two decades.
Initial investigation showed the businessman had borrowed HK$1 million from a syndicate-controlled finance company in 1997 but was unable to repay the loan and then went bankrupt, the source said.
Late last year, he went to the intermediary company in Mong Kok and applied for a 100 million yuan loan to finance a mainland investment project.
According to police, he was first persuaded to make two payments totalling about HK$1 million to be used for carrying out a site visit in Shenzhen and to do assessment reports.
On February 8, the businessman was lured to Shenzhen and detained in a hotel room. While there, demands were made on him to pay HK$29 million to settle the interest and principal on the 1997 loan.
“The victim was detained in the hotel room where he was not given any water or food and he was also beaten,” Chung said.
The amount was negotiated down to HK$6 million and the businessman was forced to sign the debt note after repeated assaults. But he was not allowed to leave and he was told to pay 1 million yuan for his release. He was rescued by mainland police in the early hours of February 10.
Another source said initial investigation showed the syndicate plotted the fraud and imprisonment in Hong Kong.
After a months-long probe, more than 100 officers raided a number of locations across the city on Monday and arrested one of the alleged ringleaders – a 62-year-old man – and another seven Hongkongers, six men and one woman, for conspiracy to defraud, unlawful detention and money laundering. The suspects included the director and employees of the Mong Kok company.
Police seized HK$500,000, computers and documents in the Hong Kong operation.
The 62-year-old suspect, surnamed Wong, and his younger brother were jailed for a massive loan sharking operation that sparked a series of crimes that left top officials in fear two decades ago. Another brother was jailed for his part in the hate campaign aimed at officials he blamed for Wong’s incarceration.
On Tuesday night, police were still searching for another alleged ringleader – one of the Wong brothers – in connection with the case.
According to police, the eight suspects were being held for questioning and none had been charged. Investigations were continuing.
The superintendent said it was possible there were other victims who had a similar experience but had not reported it. She urged them to contact police.