Hong Kong police boast bumper haul from triad swoop, citing soccer’s World Cup 2018 as factor
Youngest person held during cross-border operation only 12, with HK$313 million in ill-gotten gains also bagged
Hong Kong police arrested more than 4,000 people in the city, netting HK$313 million (US$39.8 million) in criminal proceeds, during a three-month operation with Macau and mainland Chinese counterparts against cross-border organised crime.
The youngest person held was only 12 years of age.
The force on Thursday described this year’s operation as the largest since the annual joint campaigns, code-named “Thunderbolt”, began in 2000. Officers attributed the bumper haul in part to illegal gambling and other crimes related to the soccer World Cup this year.
The campaign targets cross-border crimes by triads and other crime syndicates. The force mounted four undercover operations during the period, it said.
Between May 15 and August 15, local authorities sent more than 88,000 officers to raid about 6,300 locations across the city, including massage parlours, nightclubs and private homes.
A total of 4,283 people were arrested for various offences, including triad- and drug-related crimes, managing vice establishments and criminal damage. Of these, 1,259 were from the mainland.
The number of arrests was up 18.3 per cent on the same operation last year. Among the HK$313 million of seized criminal proceeds, police netted HK$129 million worth of illegal betting records and HK$4 million of cash during the World Cup, which ran from June 14 to July 15.
The haul also included drugs worth HK$90 million.
Man Tat-shing, head of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, said masterminds of several local triads were among those arrested, and that he believed the operation had severely stemmed their revenues.
“This does not mean that the crime situation is deteriorating. Hong Kong enjoyed its lowest level of crime in 2017 ... while crimes related to triad societies still account for 3 per cent of total crimes each year,” Man added.
“Undercover officers faced tremendous mental and physical burdens. But we believe undercover operations could strike a fatal blow to core triad members. Such operations will continue. I would also like to highly commend the controllers of the undercover officers, as it was not an easy job.”
Man said the youngest arrestee was held for drug possession, but he refused to give further details of when the boy was held and the amount of drugs he was accused of having.
Other seizures from the three months of raids included a large batch of weapons and imitation firearms, and about 150,000 rolls of contraband cigarettes.
According to police figures, 2017 was Hong Kong’s lowest crime year in 46 years. A total of 56,017 crimes were reported last year – a 7.6 per cent drop from 2016.
Macau authorities said they arrested 1,715 people for various offences during the three-month operation. The suspects were accused of being involved in loan sharking, drug trafficking and vice activities. During the operation, officers made more than 800 inspections at nightclubs, massage parlours, games centres, and other entertainment venues.
Separately on Thursday, Guangdong authorities said police in the mainland cities of Shenzhen and Foshan had smashed two cross-border racketeering groups in a joint operation with their Hong Kong counterparts. More than 7.6 million yuan (US$1.1 million) in cash were seized.
Additional reporting by Clifford Lo