Five arrested over $486,800 watch robbery, as Hong Kong protests stretch police

Footage of the Mong Kok robbery earlier this month.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Police arrested five men on Thursday over an armed robbery in December during which 48 watches worth HK$2.8 million (S$486,800) were stolen.

The men, aged 19 to 33 and all Hong Kong residents, were accused of involvement in a syndicate linked to the heist. Police warned more arrests could be made.

On December 13, four masked robbers looted a watch shop on Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, injuring a shop worker with a knife before fleeing the scene. Police said they fled after some passers-by stopped their vehicle from leaving.

"Police have looked into multiple pieces of CCTV footage and officers had earlier locked down the group. From December 16 to 25, we arrested five men of Chinese nationality, aged between 19 and 33, whom we suspected were related to the robbery," said Mong Kok district acting chief inspector Li Ki-chun, adding that the case was still under investigation.

"Robbery or conspiracy to rob is a very serious crime that could be punished by life imprisonment. Approaching year-end, business owners should also be more vigilant to avoid being the next target of criminals."

Police said they seized one of the 48 stolen watches and HK$70,000 in cash from the home of one of the suspects during their raids.

Officers also found mobile phones and clothes allegedly used by the gang during the crime.

Police chief Chris Tang Ping-keung previously conceded that over the past six months, crime was on the rise, with police attention focused on the increasing civil unrest.

Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung (centre) visits officers in Tsim Sha Tsui on Christmas Eve. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Since August, police have stopped patrolling Hong Kong's streets on foot, amid a perceived heightened risk of being attacked by anti-government protesters. Officers instead only patrol in police vans.

Official statistics show the number of burglaries in November increased 4.2 per cent compared with the same period in 2018. Robberies increased by 28 per cent, year on year.

Li, the acting chief inspector, said more manpower than usual was being used on maintaining public order.

"But we still have the capacity and confidence to detect crimes, and we would not ignore usual policing," he said.

ThIis article was first published in South China Morning Post.