A Hong Kong administrative officer, arrested on suspicion of helping a prostitution syndicate book a hotel room, denied any link with the gang and claimed he did so to earn credit card points for cash rebate or redemption, it was revealed on Friday.
The Post learned that James Lam Fong-tat, 30, who works as an assistant district officer in Sha Tin, was among five suspects rounded up in an anti-vice operation by officers from the Kowloon West regional crime unit on Wednesday.
Lam was detained on suspicion of being a tenant of premises used for prostitution, an offence punishable by up to seven years in jail. He has been released on bail pending further investigation and must report back to police in mid-May.
The Post learned on Friday that Lam denied working for the syndicate, claiming that he booked the room in a five-star hotel for about a month in Tsim Sha Tsui to earn points for his credit card and the hotel’s loyalty membership.
A source on Friday said Lam allegedly met a middleman on social media who helped arrange the deal, adding that the investigation indicated one of the two rooms in the five-star hotel, which were used by the syndicate for its sex workers and clients, was booked by Lam.
The Post has contacted Lam for comment. Administrative officers are elite civil servants playing a key role in the government.
Crime-squad officers are investigating whether the suspect previously booked other hotel rooms for the syndicate.
According to the source, another two rooms in a four-star hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui were also occupied by the syndicate.
Without revealing the identity of the government employee, Superintendent Alan Chung of the Kowloon West regional crime unit on Friday said that one of the five suspects arrested in Wednesday’s anti-vice operation was a civil servant who worked for the Home Affairs Department. He only confirmed this suspect’s surname as Lam.
He said Lam allegedly helped the syndicate book a hotel room and check in, adding that officers were still investigating the exact relationship between the suspect and the syndicate and whether he was linked to other illegal activities.
Chung appealed to the public not to help strangers book hotel rooms or check in, adding: “You don’t know what they will use the room for. It is a dangerous and stupid act. You could be easily used by criminals.”
The gang had attracted clients using adverts on Telegram, with the headline “Air hostess and you” in one of the posts.
An initial investigation showed no flight attendants were involved in the syndicate, another source said, adding that one of the two alleged ringleaders – a 30-year-old woman – had previously worked for an airline company but left it several years ago and was now a private piano teacher.
“The investigation suggested that the sex workers recruited by the gang included university students and office ladies,” the second source said.
As some flight attendant uniforms and bogus staff cards were seized in the operation, he said: “They might have had to wear flight attendant uniforms when they met their clients. This all depended on the request of customers.”
The second source added it was possible the clients did not know whether the sex workers were cabin crew, saying the syndicate mainly served regular customers who included professionals, such as lawyers and bankers and those who were well off.
According to the force, each customer was charged between HK$5,000 (US$637) and HK$10,00 for sex services and the syndicate took about 30 per cent of the proceeds.
The superintendent said the gang had been in operation for one to two years and it could have pocketed more than HK$300,000 a month.
Chung said police impounded a Porsche which was allegedly bought for more than HK$1 million by one of the ringleaders with the crime proceeds.
The force deployed several undercover officers to gather evidence before arresting the five suspects in a series of raids on Wednesday.
The administrative officer was picked up at his home in Lai Chi Kok, while the two alleged ringleaders – the woman and a 43-year-old man – were caught in the five-star hotel.
The two suspected core members of the syndicate – two men aged 27 and 41 – were arrested in Tsim Sha Tsui and Sha Tin. The elder man is the woman’s boyfriend.
The 27-year-old man, who works as a model, was accused of helping the syndicate find clients, according to the second source.
The alleged ringleaders and core members were detained on suspicion of controlling women for the purpose of prostitution or living on earnings from prostitution.
As of Friday afternoon, the four were still being held for questioning and had not been charged.