Posted on: July 21, 2022, 10:54h. 

Last updated on: July 21, 2022, 02:29h.

Police in Hong Kong have shut down a major gambling operation active across the Chinese SAR. They’re still putting together all of the details, but have already determined that the ring has ties to a known triad in the city.

Hong Kong police
Hong Kong police show off the proceeds of a bust on a triad-led gambling operation last year. They have raided new gambling dens with links to another triad. (Image: South China Morning Post)

A South China Morning Post report reveals that police arrested 48 people during an operation that included raids of seven different locations. The raids took place in several areas around the city, with the alleged ringleader, 12 associates, and 35 gamblers taken into custody.

The criminals allegedly belong to the Wo On Lok triad, one of the oldest in the city. Last year, at almost this same time, police busted another of the big triads, Wo Shing Wo, and its illegal gambling operation.

It was the largest bust the police had made in over a decade.

The coordinated raids took place in Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok, Sham Shui Po, and Yuen Long. Police confiscated around HK$13 million (US$1.65 million) in cash and goods. They seized HK$2 million (US$254,800) in cash and two sports cars, luxury watches, and more.

Millions of Dollars Lost

However, that was just a small portion of what the operation managed. Police believe that over the past two years, the triad raked in over HK33 million (US$4.2 million) through illegal activity. The criminal organization subsequently laundered most of that money through shell companies it established to hide money flow.

The operation has successfully dealt a heavy blow to the syndicate, hit their income sources and stopped their illegal activities,” said Police Superintendent Lui Sze-ho.

The gang had installed arcade betting machines in six locations, while the seventh hosted an illegal mah-jong parlor. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, many legal venues closed or introduced social distancing measures, which the criminals used to their advantage.

In addition to gambling, customers allegedly had easy access to drugs and other vices to keep them entertained. Those arrested now face charges of money laundering, triad membership, operating an illegal gambling establishment, unlawful gambling, drug trafficking, and more.

The individuals range anywhere from 21 to 63 years of age. Those arrested for illegal gambling are looking at up to nine months in jail and a fine of up to HK$50,000 (US$6,370). However, the organizers face anywhere from seven to 14 years and fines of up to HK$5 million (US$637,000).

Tracking the Triads

It’s possible that the raids were the result of other recent crackdowns. In May, police arrested 230 people as part of an operation they called Thunderbolt 2022.

In that operation, police seized HK$13 million (US$1.65 million) in cash and gambling chips. They also confiscated gaming tables, drugs, and liquor. The raids all took place in a single weekend but were part of a larger, six-week operation the police conducted to bust triads.

The police coordinated the raids with counterparts in Macau and the Chinese mainland province of Guangdong. Thunderbolt 2022 wrapped up on July 4. That was three days after the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China from Great Britain.