Cross-boundary human smuggling syndicate smashed by Immigration Department and Mainland authorities

5 April 2013

The Hong Kong Immigration Department, the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department and the Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau neutralised an active human smuggling syndicate in a joint operation codenamed "Bowstring" conducted in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong from March 29 to today (April 5). The operation resulted in the arrest of 15 suspects including three core syndicate members and the seizure of large quantities of forged travel documents, including forged Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports, Malaysian passports, boarding passes, accounting ledgers, notebooks, mobile phones and SIM cards, and more.

The Immigration Department and the Mainland authorities concerned, through continuous intelligence collection and exchange, detected an active cross-boundary human smuggling syndicate which arranged for Mainland residents to seek entry into overseas countries through the abuse of forged passports. The syndicate arranged for Hong Kong residents, Malaysians and Singaporeans to be the escorts and equipped those being smuggled with cover stories to conceal their illegal activities.

Usually, arrangements were made for the people being smuggled to have a short stay in Shenzhen or Hong Kong en route. Meanwhile, syndicate members would familiarise them with their cover stories and itineraries. When all trip arrangements were ready, the escort(s) and the people being smuggled would go to their transit points in Southeast Asia or Middle East countries. Upon arrival at the transit points, those being smuggled would use the forgeries provided by the escorts to board connecting flights and attempt to gain entry to their final destinations, such as Argentina, Brazil, Spain and elsewhere.

In a bid to combat the syndicate, the Immigration Department and the Mainland authorities mounted the large-scale joint operation in Hong Kong and on the Mainland.

During the operation, the Immigration Department deployed more than 60 officers to raid a total of 32 hideouts of suspects. A total of 15 persons were arrested for various offences including aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring another person to possess a forged travel document, and three of them were core syndicate members. Among the 15 arrestees, there were 11 males and four females, aged between 20 and 66 (14 Hong Kong residents and one Mainland resident).

Preliminary estimation indicated that the syndicate raked in up to RMB$8.5 million from the illicit acts.

The Immigration Department spokesman said the joint operation had successfully neutralised the human smuggling syndicate, which operated actively in Hong Kong and on the Mainland. The Immigration Department will continue to co-operate with various law enforcement agencies to combat cross-boundary criminal activities.

Under the laws of Hong Kong, it is an offence to use or possess a forged, false or unlawfully obtained or altered travel document. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction to a maximum fine of $150,000 and imprisonment for 14 years. Those aiding and abetting in such crimes are liable to the same penalty.

Moreover, it is an offence to transfer any travel document to another person without reasonable excuse. Offenders are liable to prosecution and, upon conviction, the maximum penalty will be a fine of $150,000 and imprisonment for 14 years. Those aiding and abetting such crimes are liable to the same penalty.