(Source: Hong Kong Police)

The brave and meticulous work of an undercover officer proved instrumental in the recent smashing of a major Tsuen Wan drug syndicate, earning him a Commendation from the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime).

Master tacticians: NB’s DCIP Szeto Kar-hei and DSIP Tiger Wong discussing the operation

Six men and a woman were arrested by Narcotics Bureau on May 8, 2017, with five convicted in the District Court on October 12, jailed for up to three years.

Team leader, NB Detective Senior Inspector Tiger Wong, said: “This seasoned, sophisticated and professional syndicate based in Shek Lei Estate, had been plaguing Tsuen Wan for several years. But with intermittent arrests, there was not much chance of us netting the mastermind and eradicating the syndicate in one go.”

“So we planned for something deep and hard. An undercover officer was to approach the traffickers to learn more about their modus operandi so hard evidence could be gathered to bring the criminals to justice.”

Another undercover policeman in mask who busted a drug syndicate which supplied to major entertainment outlets in TST earlier this year

And the selection of the undercover officer was nothing less than stringent. NB Detective CIP Szeto Kar-hei said: “What we wanted was a natural actor who looked in every way like a real drug addict. What’s more, he had to know quite a lot about drug use and trafficking activities to dupe the syndicate into taking him in.”

“Since the officer had to work alone most of the time, he needed an eagle eye and excellent memory so every detail of his encounters, including the time, place, methods of transaction and conversations, could be accurately recalled later and used as evidence. Of course, patience, courage and the ability to work under extreme conditions were also indispensable.”

Yuen Tsai (a pseudonym), a Police Constable with experience in this area, was chosen.

DCIP Szeto said: “Yuen Tsai did a much better job than we expected. We are deeply impressed by his tenacity and professionalism. And the commendation from the ACP (Crime) is something he really deserves. Tsuen Wan officers were elated the syndicate, or ‘cancer’ as they used to call it, was removed.”

He said the fact that the prosecution succeeded without video and audio evidence was a top achievement, filling the officers involved with pride.

“We think undercover operations are very useful in the fight against drug syndicates and recommend them to other Districts. We would be willing to help if necessary.”

Yuen Tsai’s diary

I volunteered to be an undercover officer to bring these criminals to justice, the job of every officer. I knew the operation could be dangerous, but I had the full support of my colleagues and was put at ease. I was not on my own.

To look like an addict, I dressed like one and the messy look put everybody off. My first attempt to approach the syndicate failed as they would not let strangers in. During the second encounter, I bought my first drugs from them. These criminals were real businessmen and they would not refuse a customer. They even told me the shift hours of police officers in the vicinity and advised me on how to avoid arrest. Then, one day, they invited me to dinner. However, their smiles reminded me of the many lives they had ruined and I was determined to nab them.

My junkie role was hell sometimes, especially when I encountered fellow police. Four Uniform Branch officers one time ordered me to take off my shirt and shoes before conducting a body search. I remained silent throughout and was glad to see they strictly followed Force procedures.

Hong Kong police conducting a standard body search. Picture credit : HK01

The buying became more and more frequent, and one time I played so desperate for a fix that the trafficker took a three-centimetre straw of heroin from his mouth saying, “take it”. Seeing it dripping with saliva from his rotten teeth, I couldn’t help but tremble. But any hesitation on my part would blow my cover. I was prepared for a hard fight in this operation and so took the straw and left the den. However, seeing a number of officers on the beat, I did what addicts do, put the straw in my mouth and shuffled off. I can’t recall how many bottles of water I drank to try and clean up my mouth. I even went to the doctor for a complete check-up.

Addicts usually heat up heroin

Luckily, we soon amassed enough evidence for the operation to go overt and the arrests were made. I’m glad it’s successfully over and I’ve emerged a more mature person with even greater determination to be a good officer.

I had the full support of my colleagues and my thanks go to DSIP Tiger Wong who was always there for me during the frequent difficulties. I’m proud of what we achieved and would not hesitate if called for a similar operation in future.