A major police operation to tackle triad smugglers has yielded 85 arrests from hideouts and piers around the city, including Tsing Yi, Tung Chung, Tuen Mun, Yau Ma Tei and Cheung Sha Wan.
The land-based operation, running since Saturday night, saw hundreds of piers and suspected hideouts surrounded and checked, with 59 boats intercepted and two illegally modified speedboats captured.
A girl aged 13 was amongst 11 arrested in an associated bust on a triad-run massage parlour/bar complex adjacent to a smuggling den.
Sea smuggling is now a major source of income for triad gangs, says a spokeswoman, with the police strategy of “sweeping the hideouts” aiming to cut off funding for gang activities.
Police said Lam Yuen-yee, the young Marine Division officer who died in a marine crash on Saturday morning, was not part of that operation and that her death was a separate incident. The spokeswoman added that the triad smuggling operations, codenamed Levington, were ongoing and regular and not prompted by Lam’s disappearance or death. These busts are run by the police force’s Organized Crime and Triad Bureau, not Marine Division.
But Lam’s death has sparked criticism of the force’s handling of smuggling cases, which sources say have risen drastically as land borders with China have closed or narrowed.
On Saturday, shortly after Lam disappeared from a capsized police vessel, former marine police officer Les Bird posted a video on Facebook of an armada of speedboats passing north Lantau with a comment “Today’s fleet of Daai Fei smugglers, north of Lantau”.
Daai Fei‘s are the preferred boat of smugglers, kitted out with as many as six powerful outboard engines and sharpened armour-plated steel hulls, leaving plenty of cargo space for illicit goods or even luxury cars in the hold.
Bird later said the video wasn’t his and that he wasn’t currently in Hong Kong, while a source at Marine West Division said the video was “old news”.
But landmarks such as the new Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge date the clip to some time in the last four years.
In response, police said “Marine Police Region has all along striven to combat the illegal activities in the Hong Kong waters concerned.”