Hong Kong police rounded up 91 people found crammed into a 1,000 sq ft unlicensed pub during a raid in the early hours of Tuesday, despite coronavirus regulations barring both group gatherings and the operation of bars.
The arrests were made when officers from the Kowloon West anti-triad squad raided the Vincent Commercial Centre flat in Hillwood Road, Tsim Sha Tsui at about 3.30am.
Officers had to break into the upstairs unit when staff refused to open the door, according to police.
"Intelligence showed the unlicensed pub was controlled by a Wo Shing Wo triad gang, which was also using it to sell illegal drugs to customers," one police source said.
He said it had been in operation for a while, but began drawing larger crowds after new anti-pandemic regulations shuttered bars across the city last Friday.
Inside the premises, police found 91 people - 56 men and 35 women - and seized about 700 bottles of liquor.
"Packs of illegal drugs, including cocaine and crystal meth, were found in rubbish bins and scattered on the floor," the source said. Traces of cannabis and ketamine were also found on some tables.
Altogether, police seized HK$70,000 (US$9,000) worth of illegal drugs, according to Superintendent Alan Chung of the Kowloon West regional crime unit.
He added that the venue was not only crowded but unhygienic.
"The place is small, about 1,000 sq ft in size, but accommodated 91 people," Chung said. "Some people could not find seats and had to sit on the floor."
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said all the suspects received temperature checks at the scene, but no one had fever.
Four staff members among those arrested - three men and a woman - were taken in on suspicion of trafficking a dangerous drug and selling alcohol without a licence. The 86 customers were arrested for possessing illegal drugs and drinking liquor on unlicensed premises.
As of Tuesday afternoon, all the suspects were still being held for questioning but none had been charged.
Chung said police would seek legal advice from the Department of Justice as to whether the suspects could be charged for violating the new government measures designed to combat the spread of Covid-19.
The 14-day ban on public gatherings of more than four people that took effect on March 29 is among those measures.
On Sunday, six residents at a Kwai Chung public housing estate were fined HK$2,000 each when they gathered for a game of chess in breach of social-distancing laws, marking the city's first prosecutions under coronavirus rules banning public gatherings.
About 24 hours later, police issued HK$2,000 fixed penalty tickets to 13 more people - nine men and four women, aged between 58 and 84 - found gathering at Sha Kok Estate in Sha Tin.
Under the regulation, people who participate in a prohibited group gathering may be subject to a HK$2,000 fine, while those who organise or allow such a gathering face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a HK$25,000 fine.
The new rules banning the operation of bars and pubs carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a HK$50,000 fine.
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