Army dismisses Black Watch 'link to Triads'

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The Independent Online

Hong Kong

The British forces garrison in Hong Kong has categorically denied reports, which appeared in some British newspapers yesterday, alleging that members of the Black Watch regiment were under investigation for links with Triad criminal gangs, and that soldiers had been brought back to Hong Kong to help police investigations of Triad activity.

The reports stated that the servicemen would receive immunity from prosecution in return for helping the police.

A statement issued from the garrison headquarters said: "There are no investigations into links between soldiers serving in the Black Watch regiment and organised crime syndicates. No soldiers from that regiment have been brought back to Hong Kong for interview in connection with that, or any other investigation. No certificate of immunity from prosecution has been issued to any member of the Black Watch."

Both the Hong Kong police and the colony's powerful Independent Commission Against Corruption have confirmed the garrison's denial of the story.

The statement from the Army, made in uncharacteristically blunt language, "deplores in the strongest possible terms this disgraceful example of unprofessional journalism".

The report originated in Hong Kong's Eastern Express newspaper, which, says the statement, published its story "despite a categorical on-the- record statement from this headquarters maintaining that the story was unfounded".

The story was splashed across the Eastern Express front page on Monday but was not followed up by the other Hong Kong media. News agency reports then gave it international prominence.

Last night an Army source conceded that soldiers may, on occasion, have moonlighted as bouncers at nightclubs in the once notorious red-light Wanchai district, where some of the clubs are known to have ties to organised crime.

However, such activity is far removed from the original, lurid media report, which said that members of the Scottish regiment "were ultimately admitted as low-ranking members of the Triad".

The Black Watch finished its last tour of duty in Hong Kong in August 1994. The regiment will return in February next year in order to take part in the ceremonies that will mark the end of British colonial rule and China's resumption of sovereignty on 1 July.