Four cabbies in Hong Kong who overcharged plainclothes constables posing as mainland tourists and Western revelers were caught red-handed during a police operation to combat cheating taxi drivers during the Christmas holidays.

The cabbies charged HK$100-250 (US$13-32) for a 10-minute, 4.5-kilometer trip from the city’s Lan Kwai Fong entertainment area in Central to the nearby district of Wan Chai, offenses described by the police as “highway robberies.” The normal metered fare would be HK$50 at most.

The arrested taxi drivers may face charges ranging from failure to use their meters or tampering with their meters. All were released on bail after the initial investigation. However, their taxis were towed to a police station pending an examination, according to the Oriental Daily News.

Many more Hong Kong cabbies may fall foul of police clampdowns against overcharging during the festive month when throngs of tourists flock to the city.

Lan Kwai Fong is a popular expat haunt and taxi drivers who pick up passengers there at midnight or in the early hours often overcharge them.

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Police officers conduct checks of taxi drivers in Lan Kwai Fong. Photo: Facebook

Two more cabbies were also arrested during the four-day Christmas break, with one allegedly charging five times the normal metered fare.

Police urge tourists who suspect they have been overcharged or involved in other ruses to mark down the time, location, license plate number as well as the name of the driver as shown on the identity card displayed on the dashboard.

A spokesman for Central Police Station said the force would step up its operations against taxi malpractices during the festive season.

It is an offense for a taxi driver to overcharge or refuse to take a hire. Drivers convicted can face a fine of up to HK$10,000 and up to six months in prison under Hong Kong law.