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Fifteen immigration offenders arrested
     The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including operations codenamed "Twilight", and joint operations with the Hong Kong Police Force codenamed "Champion" and "Windsand", yesterday (May 31) to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 11 illegal workers and four suspected employers were arrested.

     During operation "Twilight", ImmD Task Force officers raided six target locations including a restaurant, a farm, a residential flat, village houses and an industrial building under renovation. Six illegal workers and four employers were arrested. The illegal workers comprised four men and two women, aged 32 to 59. Meanwhile, three men and a woman, aged 41 to 70, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

     During operation "Champion", enforcement officers raided five target locations in Tsuen Wan including restaurants and residential flats. A male illegal worker, aged 27, was arrested. He was a holder of a recognisance form, which prohibits him from taking any employment.

     Furthermore, during operation "Windsand", four female Mainland visitors, aged 29 to 54, were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at San Wan Road and Cambridge Plaza in Sheung Shui. The goods included milk powder, food, cosmetics products and skincare products.
     Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3 277 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 3 044 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 Among those prosecuted, 222 were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months, and charges were withdrawn for the other 11 people.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 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/Thursday, June 1, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:44
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