Hijackers net pounds 1.1m in raid on HK jetfoil

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The Independent Online

of Reuters

Hong Kong - Hijackers robbed a Hong Kong-bound jetfoil of a consignment worth HK$12m (pounds 1.1m) yesterday after diverting the craft and its 129 passengers into Chinese waters.

The hijackers, who boarded the Guia in Macau, forced the captain to sail into the Pearl River delta towards the tiny Chinese island of Qi Ao, said Betty Lim, spokeswoman for the jetfoil company, Shun Tak Holdings.

The gang transferred money boxes belonging to a Chinese bank on to a waiting speedboat and disappeared. The boxes were being transferred to Hong Kong by a security company. Earlier reports that the gang had stripped passengers of their possessions had proved unfounded and Ms Lim said she understood none had been robbed and no one was hurt.

Hong Kong police said three men apparently armed with pistols forced their way into the vessel's cockpit. Shots were allegedly fired during a struggle and some equipment was damaged but no one was hurt.

After reaching Qi Ao, a fourth man boarded the jetfoil from a small boat. The culprits took the money boxes and some luggage and fled aboard the small boat, which was driven by a fifth accomplice.

Passengers said that the hijackers claimed they had placed a bomb on board. "They told us not to move. We didn't," a passenger said.

The jetfoil is operated by a company controlled by Stanley Ho, a Macau gambling tycoon. Casinos in the Portuguese colony, most of them run by Mr Ho and his associates, are a magnet for Hong Kong's gambling-mad population and gaming profits provide the bulk of Macau's revenues. Casinos are banned in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong police, who launched an air and sea search for the vessel on hearing of the hijack, have taken charge of the investigation, which occurred just inside Hong Kong territorial waters, a police spokesman said.

The Guia, with a crew of eight, turned around after the hijackers disembarked and returned unscathed to Macau, 40 miles from Hong Kong. Au Chor Wai , a manager at the jetfoil terminal, said he first heard about the hijacking from a passenger using a mobile telephone.