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A plane flies over the Hong Kong International Airport during sunset in Hong Kong May 12, 2006. (PAUL YEUNG/REUTERS)
A plane flies over the Hong Kong International Airport during sunset in Hong Kong May 12, 2006. (PAUL YEUNG/REUTERS)

From Hong Kong to Canada: inside a human smuggling plot Add to ...

The Hong Kong court didn’t hear why Mr. Leung had to pick up the luggage. But in other smuggling cases heard in Canadian courts, Chinese migrants have said that upon landing in Canada they turned over their false papers to the smugglers and had no luggage on them, making it harder for authorities to document how they arrived.

A 2010 Federal Court ruling, for example, described one Fujianese refugee claimant this way: “Upon his arrival, he had no passport, no boarding passes and no luggage tags to document the airlines on which he had been a passenger.”

Back in Hong Kong, Mr. Miu decided to join the conspiracy. In April, 2009, he gave his name, passport number, date of birth and other particulars to Ah Bo so the kingpin could book an air ticket departing May 25, 2009.

THE RENDEZ-VOUS

The morning of May 25, Mr. Miu, Mr. Leung and two other men met with Ah Bo at the Sheung Shui bus terminus, in the northern part of Hong Kong’s New Territories.

Ah Bo explained what they were expected to do at the airport. The five men then headed for Chep Lak Kok, the reclaimed island where the airport is located. At Terminal 1, they entered the arrival hall, on Level 5.

Just at the entrance, at the Ajisen Ramen noodle shop, the five men were joined by a woman and a man.

Ah Bo handed Cathay Pacific airline tickets to Mr. Miu and two others, who were going to be boarding-pass facilitators.

He told them to memorize the travel details so they could answer if questioned by airline staff. He also gave each of them a piece of luggage to check.

THE CHECK-IN

Mr. Miu and the other two men went up two floors to the Cathay Pacific check-in area, making sure they lined up at separate counters.

Separately, at least two other conspirators – Mr. Leung and the woman, Ivy – also checked-in for the flight.

Meanwhile, at the departure counter of Dragonair, three Chinese citizens showed up.

Using their real passports, they checked in for short-haul flights to Xiamen and Fuzhou, cities in Fujian province.

It was about 1:30 p.m. Cathay Flight CX838 was to depart Hong Kong to Vancouver at 4.35 p.m.

THE PICKUP

Meeting back at the noodle shop, Ah Bo collected the three boarding passes from Mr. Miu and the other facilitators and left with Mr. Leung and Ivy.

Mr. Leung and Ivy went through the security controls and into the restricted zone.

Inside the waiting area, Mr. Leung entered a toilet where he left a magazine containing a forged passport and one of the Vancouver-bound Cathay boarding passes.

One of the Chinese migrants then picked up the package so he could use the documents to get aboard Flight CX838.

CAUGHT

At 4:15 p.m., as they queued at the boarding gate, the three Chinese migrants caught the attention of immigration officers, who often conduct spot checks throughout the airport.

Hong Kong officials won’t say how they noticed the trio, but one challenge for smugglers has been to make sure that the migrants, who often have never travelled outside of China, look like international travellers.

Chan Ka-bo later told the others that the three Chinese had been caught because they “stood in the wrong position at the boarding gate.”

The officers found on the migrants their original IDs and entrance and exit permits from the People’s Republic of China, along with their Dragonair tickets and boarding passes.

The three also carried Cathay boarding passes and forged Hong Kong passports, including one in Mr. Miu’s name.

Officers arrested the trio, who joined the more than 480 people intercepted at the airport that year on suspicions of having fraudulent passports or visas.

Mr. Leung boarded the flight without the migrants. He was arrested in Vancouver and deported to Hong Kong two days later.

AFTERMATH

The three Chinese mainlanders were each sentenced to 10 months of prison.

Mr. Miu was sentenced to 16 months and another check-in facilitator involved that day received a 19-month sentence.

After being sent back from Vancouver, Mr. Leung got a 23-month sentence.

“This is a serious matter. It has international dimensions in that it reflects badly upon Hong Kong as we are seen as a conduit for illegal immigrants,” District Judge Garry Tallentire said in sentencing Mr. Leung.

A spokesman for Hong Kong’s Immigration Department said the mastermind, Chan Ka-bo, was initially arrested. However, no court proceedings has been undertaken against him and officials are closed-mouthed about his whereabouts.

In an e-mail to the Globe and Mail, a prosecutor said that Mr. Chan remains “at large” while the Immigration spokesman said he cannot provide more details because “investigation on the concerned mastermind is still continuing.”

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