Hong Kong and Guangdong province authorities have broken a cross-border, people-smuggling racket accused of using fishing boats to bring Chinese illegal immigrants to and from the city and offering them illegal employment following the arrest of 38 people. The ringleader of the syndicate, a mainland man, was among seven people apprehended in Guangdong, according to Hong Kong marine police chief inspector Wong Chun-yip. In the city, police arrested a local man and three mainlanders – two men and one woman – after intercepting a mainland-bound fishing boat in Deep Bay off Lau Fau Shan in the New Territories before daybreak on Friday. The woman was found hidden in a secret compartment under a toilet on board the 13-metre-long boat. Police also seized 190kg of endangered red sandalwood worth about HK$600,000 in the compartment. By midday Friday, another 27 people – 13 men and 14 women – were picked up as police and immigration officers raided 16 locations across the city. The locations included subdivided flats, a restaurant and a waste recycling factory. After reaching the landing spot ... they were instructed to take taxis to their hideouts Wong Chun-yip, Hong Kong Marine police Local and provincial authorities began investigating the syndicate after receiving intelligence about two weeks ago. Wong said intelligence indicated the gang used fishing boats to smuggle illegal Chinese immigrants between Shekou in Guangdong and Lau Fau Shan in northwest Hong Kong, which is near Mai Po nature reserve. The journey takes about half an hour. The chief inspector said the syndicate provided accommodation – mostly in subdivided flats – to the illegal immigrants in the city. He said each one was charged between HK$7,000 and HK$12,000 for the journey. “[Illegal immigrants] were usually given the address of their hideouts. After reaching the landing spot in Lau Fau Shan, they were instructed to take taxis to their hideouts.” Local authorities said the syndicate offered illegal employment to the mainlanders, such as decoration work. The boat’s secret compartment, measuring 4m by 1m by 1.5m in size, was where illegal immigrants hid, police said. It could store up to five people at a time. As the compartment’s exit was screwed from the outside, Wong said those hiding inside could not open it and were unable to escape if an engine burst into flames and the boat sank. After the two-week investigation, local and provincial authorities mounted a joint operation code-named Blueseal and made arrests on both sides. Wong believed the syndicate had been working for one month and that it had been smashed. Fewer illegal immigrants arrested in Hong Kong after joint crackdown on people smugglers with mainland police He said the joint operation was continuing and it was possible further arrests would be made. The 31 suspects arrested in Hong Kong included three core members of the racket. They were arrested for various offences including endangering the safety of others at sea, smuggling illegal immigrants and entering the city illegally.