Twenty-nine immigration offenders arrested

     The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including an operation codenamed "Twilight", and joint operations with the Hong Kong Police Force and the Labour Department codenamed "Champion" and "Windsand", from June 12 to 15 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 23 illegal workers and six suspected employers were arrested.

     During operation "Twilight", ImmD Task Force officers raided nine target locations including restaurants, a bar, a guesthouse, a vegetable stall, a fruit stall, a recycling yard and an industrial unit. Eight illegal workers and three employers were arrested. The illegal workers comprised five men and three women, aged 26 to 54. Meanwhile, three women, aged 46 to 62, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

     During operation "Champion", enforcement officers raided 32 target locations in Western district, Mong Kok, Hung Hom, Kowloon City, Tsing Yi and Kwai Chung including restaurants, guesthouses, massage parlours, stalls, a grocery stall, a cement factory, a residential building and shops under renovation. Eleven illegal workers and three employers were arrested. The illegal workers comprised four men and seven women aged 20 to 56. Among them, two men were holders of recognisance forms, which prohibit them from taking any employment. The two men and four women were also suspected of using and being in possession of a forged Hong Kong identity card or identity card relating to other person. Meanwhile, two men and one woman, aged 35 to 58, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

     Furthermore, during operation "Windsand", four female Mainland visitors, aged 37 to 57, were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at San Wan Road in Sheung Shui and Castle Peak Road - San Tin in Lok Ma Chau. The goods included food, daily necessities, skincare products and electronic products.

     Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3 288 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 3 055 people were repatriated. Among those prosecuted, 222 were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months, and charges were withdrawn for the other 11 people.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. Aiders and abettors are also liable to prosecution and penalties," 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.

Ends/Friday, June 16, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:35