Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities have broken up a cross-border syndicate that used speedboats to smuggle workers from Zhuhai and arranged jobs for them in the city, arresting 104 people in a month-long joint operation.
This was revealed by Chief Inspector Wan King-hang of the New Territories North regional crime unit on Tuesday, a day after the alleged ringleader of the syndicate, a Hong Kong man, was picked up in the city.
In Zhuhai, officers from the Guangdong Coast Guard had arrested 61 people, including two Hong Kong men, and confiscated 12 speedboats and two vehicles since July 29.
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In Hong Kong, police arrested 43 people and impounded five speedboats and a car during the operation.
Among those arrested in the city were the alleged 38-year-old mastermind and nine core members. The others were illegal workers and those staying in the city without proper documentation. The ringleader, believed to be a 14K triad member, was picked up at his home in Yuen Long on Monday morning.
Wan said an investigation indicated the syndicate had been in operation since June and collaborated with their mainland contacts, who left posts on social media platforms to find those who wanted to come to Hong Kong and work.
“Each illegal immigrant was charged [a fee] ranging from 5,000 yuan (US$723) to 15,000 yuan for the journey,” he said.
They (the illegals) were then arranged to work as labourers in construction sites or recycling plants or to work as prostitutes
Chief Inspector Wan King-hang
The syndicate used powerful speedboats – equipped with three outboard engines – to smuggle Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian citizens from Zhuhai to Hong Kong. The speedboats entered the city via western Hong Kong waters, and the workers usually went ashore in Tung Chung on Lantau and Tuen Mun before being picked up by gangsters and transported to hideouts.
“They were then arranged to work as labourers in construction sites or recycling plants, or to work as prostitutes,” Wan said.
He said some of those from India were also recruited by triads to join street fights or showdowns for triad gangs.
The chief inspector said the syndicate also smuggled mainland and Vietnamese illegal workers back to Zhuhai.
After an in-depth investigation, officers in Hong Kong swooped into action to crack down on the syndicate from mid-July.
In one of the operations, marine police intercepted a nine-metre-long speedboat off Tuen Mun on Saturday. Officers arrested 19 people on board, including a mainland coxswain, two Hong Kong men and 16 illegals.
On July 21, police lay in wait for the suspects at the Tung Chung waterfront on Lantau before one of the core members drove in and picked up two female illegal workers. After a 30km car chase, the vehicle was eventually intercepted on Austin Road in Jordan, and officers arrested the three suspects in it.
Wan said the speedboats and vehicles seized in Hong Kong and Zhuhai were worth about HK$9 million (US$1,161,230).
“We believe police have smashed the people-smuggling syndicate through the joint operation,” he said.
Arranging passage to Hong Kong of unauthorised entrants carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ jail, the chief inspector warned.