Twenty-three immigration offenders arrested

12 January 2017

The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including an operation codenamed "Twilight" and joint operations with other law enforcement agencies codenamed "Champion" and "Windsand", from January 9 to 12 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 20 illegal workers and three suspected employers were arrested.

The operations are still in progress.

During operation "Twilight", ImmD Task Force officers raided six target locations including warehouses, a restaurant, a retail shop and a vegetable stall. Four illegal workers and two employers were arrested. The four illegal workers comprised four men, aged 43 to 57. Among them, one man was suspected of using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card. Two women, aged 39 and 44, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During operation "Champion", enforcement officers raided 28 target locations including restaurants, retail shops, massage parlours, stalls, factories, logistics centres and shops under renovation in Tsing Yi, Kwai Chung, Cheung Sha Wan, Sham Shui Po and Yau Tsim Mong districts. Fourteen illegal workers and one employer were arrested. The 14 illegal workers comprised 12 men and two women aged 20 to 60. Among them, eight men and one woman were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. The woman was also suspected of using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card. Meanwhile, one woman aged 35 was suspected of employing the illegal workers.

During operations "Windsand", two Mainland visitors comprising one man and one woman aged 40 and 62 were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at Castle Peak Road - San Tin in Lok Ma Chau. The goods included milk powder, red wine, food, skin-care products and electronic products.

Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3 159 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 2 926 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were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months, one is pending court hearing and charges were withdrawn for the other 10 people.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," an ImmD spokesman said.

The spokesman warned that, as stipulated in section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, illegal immigrants or people who are the subject of a removal order or a deportation order are prohibited from taking any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establishing or joining in any business. Offenders are liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to three years' imprisonment. The Court of Appeal has issued a guideline ruling that a sentence of 15 months' imprisonment should be applied in such cases.

The spokesman also warned that it is an offence to use or possess a forged Hong Kong identity card or a Hong Kong identity card related to another person. 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.