Hong Kong police arrested more than 4,200 people and seized psychotropic drugs and illicit goods worth HK$310 million (US$40 million) during a three-month crackdown on crime gangs.

The anti-triad operation codenamed Thunderbolt 18, saw local officers share intelligence and joined forces with the Macau and Guangdong police to clamp down on cross-boundary organized crime and triad groups. An emphasis was put on cutting criminal groups’ sources of income, the Hong Kong police said in a press release.

Police searched more than 6,300 locations throughout the city – from discos, karaoke bars, game centers, massage parlors, nightclubs, restaurants and mahjong clubs to private residential units – in one of the biggest operations undertaken in recent years.

The 4,283 people arrested were detained and questioned for offenses ranging from managing triad societies, running vice establishments, breaching conditions of stay, illegal gambling, vandalism and criminal damage to unlawful possession of arms and ammunition.

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The three-month-long operation targeted triad groups, organized crime and loan sharking activities. Photo: HK Police

More than 1,200 of these offenders were from the mainland of China, while 219 were ethnic minorities, such as Filipinos, Indonesians, Indians, Vietnamese and Nepalese. The youngest individual arrested was only 12 years old, according to local papers.

Drugs such as cannabis, ketamine, cocaine, ice, heroin and midazolam were seized, along with more than 205,000 obscene and pirated DVDs. Other seized items included large batches of choppers, machetes and imitation firearms, as well as 150,000 rolls of contraband cigarettes.

Four undercover operations were conducted to infiltrate the inner circle of these triad groups.

Meanwhile, a group of illegal money lenders targeting Filipino domestic workers in the city was also smashed, after police got a report from an indentured helper who was asked by a lender to surrender her passport.

After an investigation, the police arrested a Filipino Chinese and a Filipino woman, likely a middle agent, earlier this month for running an unlicensed money lending business. The duo reportedly charged borrowers interest rates as high as 120% a year.

The Money Lenders Ordinance stipulates that any person who lends money at an effective interest rate of over 60% per annum commits an offense.

More than 400 Filipino passports and some HK$100,000 in cash were found in the raid, according to Sing Pao Daily.

A police superintendent said the duo had run the business for two years and could have sources in the Philippines about the identity and financial situation of new domestic workers heading for Hong Kong, so they were able to target those in financial trouble.