Twenty-six immigration offenders arrested

19 January 2017

The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including operations codenamed "Twilight" and joint operations with other law enforcement agencies codenamed "Champion" and "Windsand", from January 16 to 18 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 14 illegal workers, eight suspected employers, two overstayers, a person suspected of aiding and abetting the overstayers and a person suspected of illegally transferring an identity card to another person were arrested.

During operation "Twilight", ImmD Task Force officers raided 14 target locations including residential flats, restaurants, retail shops, a garage, a grocery store, an education centre and a residential flat under renovation. Eight illegal workers and seven employers were arrested. The eight illegal workers comprised six men and two women, aged 24 to 54. Four men and three women, aged 27 to 87, were arrested on suspicion of employing the illegal workers. Meanwhile, two female overstayers, aged 39 and 40, were arrested and a man, aged 48, was arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting the overstayers. During the operation a woman, aged 22, was also arrested on suspicion of transferring her Hong Kong identity card to another person without reasonable excuse.

During operation "Champion", enforcement officers raided 12 target locations including restaurants, retail shops, massage parlours, a salon and shops under renovation in Kowloon City, Hung Hom and Western district. A female illegal worker, aged 32, was arrested. Meanwhile, one woman aged 37 was suspected of employing the illegal worker.

During operation "Windsand", five Mainland visitors comprising three men and two women, aged 18 to 46, were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at San Wan Road and Ka Fu Close in Sheung Shui. The goods included milk powder, red wine, food, skin-care products and cosmetics products.

Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3 170 Mainlanders and 18 Hong Kong residents were arrested for suspected involvement in parallel goods trading. Of these, 233 Mainlanders were prosecuted for breach of conditions of stay, while the remaining 2 937 people were repatriated. Among those prosecuted, 222 were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months, one is pending court hearing and charges were withdrawn for the other 10 people.

"Any person who contravenes a condition of stay in force in respect of him shall be guilty of an offence. Also, visitors are not allowed to take employment in Hong Kong, whether paid or unpaid, without the permission of the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction face a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to two years' imprisonment. Aiders and abettors are also liable to prosecution and penalties," an ImmD spokesman said.

The spokesman also warned that it is an offence to transfer an identity card to another person without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. Offenders are liable to prosecution and a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and up to 10 years' imprisonment.

The spokesman reiterated that it is a serious offence to employ people who are not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for three years and a fine of $350,000. The High Court has laid down sentencing guidelines that the employer of an illegal worker should be given an immediate custodial sentence. According to the court sentencing, employers must take all practicable steps to determine whether a person is lawfully employable prior to employment. Apart from inspecting a prospective employee's identity card, the employer has the explicit duty to make enquiries regarding the person and ensure that the answers would not cast any reasonable doubt concerning the lawful employability of the person. The court will not accept failure to do so as a defence in proceedings. It is also an offence if an employer fails to inspect the job seeker's valid travel document if the job seeker does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card. The maximum penalty for failing to inspect such a document is imprisonment for one year and a fine of $150,000.