Hong Kong police arrest bank robber after 5-hour manhunt

A police van parked outside the main branch of the Bank of East Asia after an armed robbery, at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, on Feb 28, 2018.
A police van parked outside the main branch of the Bank of East Asia after an armed robbery, at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, on Feb 28, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Hong Kong police arrested a 57-year-old man for robbing a bank of HK$70,000 (S$11,850) after a five-hour manhunt on Wednesday (Feb 28).

A video clip of the robbery went viral on social media, showing an Asian-looking man clad in a black top pointing a pistol at a staff member sitting behind a counter at the Bank of East Asia (BEA) headquarters in Central. The face of the suspect, who was not masked, was caught on surveillance camera.

The staff member was seen stuffing wads of bills into an orange bag at gunpoint before the suspect grabbed the bag and walked off at around 3.30pm local time in the afternoon. He was caught five hours later.

Local media reported that the 57-year-old suspect has an extensive criminal record, including another robbery in 1987 on  Dao Heng Bank in Hennessy Road, Wanchai, and later a hostage crisis on a mini bus during his escape.

He was also reportedly arrested for stealing a gold chain worth about HK$23,000 (S$3,887) from a jewellery shop in Sham Shui Po in 2016.

In Wednesday's manhunt that was closely filmed by the media, law enforcers armed with rifles were seen running down the streets and through train carriages at the Central MTR station in search of the suspect. Subway services at the Central Station were briefly disrupted, Apple Daily reported.

The robbery took place a week after the Hong Kong-based BEA posted a near tripling in profit in its full fiscal year, beating street estimates, bolstered by a sharp jump in income from the sale of some non-core assets as well as a drop in impairment losses.

Net profit was HK$9.3 billion in 2017, up from HK$3.72 billion in the year prior, Reuters reported.

BEA has survived as an independent lender in a market dominated by majors HSBC Holdings PLC and Standard Chartered PLC, while deteriorating business conditions has seen several of Hong Kong's other family-owned firms put up for sale.