Hong Kong police have arrested 155 people during raids on more than a dozen gambling dens, including a suspected faction leader of the Wo Shing Wo triad society that was believed to have been raking in more than HK$15 million (US$1.94 million) a month from its underground casino operation.
Business had been booming for the gang, as more residents turned to illegal mahjong parlours and gaming centres after legitimate ones were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the force said.
The faction head, a Hong Kong identity card holder of Pakistani origin, was believed to be in charge of the gang’s ethnic minority wing, according to a police source.
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The man, whose nickname is “Lo Fu Chai”, is suspected to hold the rank of red-pole fighter – a senior triad member who acts as an enforcer. Most of his followers were Pakistanis and he was mainly accused of involvement in drug trafficking and illegal gambling activities, the insider said.
He was among the 80 men arrested along with 75 women in the raids on 18 gambling dens in Tsuen Wan at around 1am on Wednesday. More than 200 officers took part in the operation, seizing HK$860,000 in cash and betting chips along with account books and computers. A small quantity of ketamine and cannabis was also found.
The triads ran the casinos in old residential blocks around the clock, offering betting on baccarat and mahjong, along with arcade games and slot machines, according to police.
Also arrested were 11 non-Chinese residents and three visitors from mainland China holding two-way permits – a travel document that allows them to enter the city.
The suspected offences included money laundering, managing a gambling establishment, unlawful gambling and drug trafficking.
Superintendent Eileen Chung Lai-yee of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau said the gang expanded its illegal gambling activities as mahjong parlours and games centres were forced to suspend their business in the wake of social-distancing regulations to combat the pandemic.
She said the gang also offered gamblers illegal loans with an annual interest rate of 500 per cent, compared to the legal maximum of 60 per cent a year.
“We believe a large scale gambling den could generate HK$10,000 in profit every hour,” she said. “We estimate that the triad gang could pocket over HK$15 million a month through its illegal gambling activities.”
The force said the investigation was continuing and additional arrests were possible.
The crackdown came after police arrested 153 people and closed down 22 gambling dens – including one for domestic helpers in Wan Chai – between August 10 and 23.
Gambling in an illegal establishment carries a maximum penalty of nine months in jail and a HK$30,000 fine. Operating a gambling establishment carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a HK$5 million fine.