Crackdown on Hong Kong triad-controlled gambling dens and prostitution leads to 48 arrests as ‘Thunderbolt 18’ operation ends
Suspects include 26 female visitors from mainland China rounded up in anti-vice raid jointly mounted by police and immigration officers
Hong Kong police arrested 48 people, including gamblers and mainland Chinese prostitutes, as a major three-month crackdown against triads and organised crime in the city came to an end.
In one raid early on Wednesday, officers arrested 22 people and seized HK$25,500 (US$3,200) and four arcade game machines. Two accounting books along with game cards were also confiscated.
The 18 men and four women, aged 25 to 56, were picked up when officers raided two residential units on King’s Road and Chun Yeung Street in North Point that were used as gambling dens.
Police said two of the men, aged 28 and 36, were arrested on suspicion of operating the betting establishments, while the others were arrested for gambling. They were being held for questioning.
In Hong Kong, operating a gambling establishment carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a HK$5 million fine. Gambling in an illegal establishment carries a maximum penalty of nine months in jail and a HK$30,000 fine.
Separately, 26 female visitors from mainland China were rounded up in an anti-vice operation jointly mounted by police and immigration officers in Yau Ma Tei on Tuesday. The women were arrested in brothels and hotel rooms on Temple Street, Shanghai Street, Portland Street, Reclamation Street, Jordan Road and Nathan Road when the raids began at about 4pm on Tuesday.
The raids in North Point and Yau Ma Tei were part of a three-month operation code-named “Thunderbolt 18”, which ended on Wednesday.
In the first two months of the operation, police arrested more than 3,000 people, seized HK$220 million in betting records, illicit goods and illegal drugs, and closed down more than 3,000 illegal gambling dens, drug distribution centres, vice establishments and unlicensed pubs across the city.
The operation was carried out in tandem with an annual cross-border “clean-up” against organised crime syndicates and triad activities and was led by police from the city, Guangdong province and Macau.
On the first day of the operation, officers from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau arrested two elderly sisters suspected of running a prostitution ring out of their Mid-Levels home. Police seized HK$10 million in cash inside the flat.
In June, police in Hong Kong and Shenzhen arrested 50 people and confiscated HK$77.7 million in betting records in their joint operation targeting a cross-border bookmaking syndicate during the World Cup.
Last month, police arrested more than 100 people in connection with gold-trading scams in which attractive, sweet-talking female brokers, as well as male brokers posing as women, were used to coax clients into making investments. Police said there were more than 160 victims in one of the cases, resulting in HK$100 million in total losses.