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'Teeth Dog' Meets His Match

Hong Kong's most wanted criminal is finally captured

By Alison Dakota Gee / Hong Kong

HE WAS WITHOUT REMORSE -- a cold-blooded robber and possibly a killer. His style was to strike quickly and viciously in the streets of Hong Kong before disappearing back across the border into China. Over a 12-year period, Yip Kai Foon plundered more than $1.5 million in raids on jewelry stores, sometimes blasting his way past police with an AK-47 assault rifle. And each time he reappeared to create terror, he was wearing his trademark trench coat.

But not any more. Yip is behind bars. The fugitive with a reward of a million Hong Kong dollars on his head was captured not by the detectives who had been looking for him all these years, but by three young police constables who had no idea they were up against the man dubbed "teeth dog" and "awesome robber" -- the most dangerous criminal the territory has known.

On May 14, the officers were patrol-ling the mainly residential Western district. At 4.30 in the morning, they came across a group of six men who appeared to have just landed from a boat. When asked for identification, five fled. The other pulled a gun from a bag and began shooting. The officers fired back, bringing him down with shots to the stomach and armpit. In his bag, they discovered a Polish-made W263 automatic weapon capable of firing 600 rounds a minute. In another bag was a gun loaded with 12 rounds and 1.8 kg of military explosives -- enough to destroy a building.

It was later established that the man's weapon had jammed on the third shot. Had it not, the three officers would probably have been out-gunned. Says Trevor Oakes, Senior Superintendent of Crime on Hong Kong Island: "They had little cover. It could have been bad." The suspect was rushed to hospital, where he was fingerprinted. Jubilant police could barely believe their eyes when the results came through.

"It would be nice to say that Yip's capture was the result of many years of hard work," says a British detective. "But, in fact, it was pure luck. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's all." Police believe Yip, 35, was in town for a big job, possibly to hold up a security truck belonging to the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, which runs gambling in the territory.

Many detectives had taken to carrying Yip's photo in their wallets. One of them explains: "He's a psycopath. His modus operandi was to shoot first and ask questions after. In case I ever saw him, I wanted to be sure I knew who I was dealing with." Says Supt. Oakes: "The brazen way he conducted his robberies and his use of automatic weapons marked him as particularly violent and dangerous. We knew we had to get him off the streets." Yip's file shows why. For instance:

  • In 1984, when he was 23, he led a gang of five armed mainland men into Hong Kong. They robbed two jewelry stores, including one in the heart of the bustling financial district. Their haul: more than $700,000 of precious items.

  • A year later, Yip was captured and sentenced to 18 years in prison. But he escaped in 1989, when he faked appendicitis and was transferred to hospital. In the toilet, he jumped his two police guards with broken bottles and made off in a waiting van. He is presumed to have fled into China.

  • In 1991, he was back. He and his gang, armed with AK-47s and pistols, robbed five goldsmiths shops in one go. They fired 54 shots at police and escaped with gold and jewelry worth more than $700,000.

  • Yip is thought to have been involved in a jewelry store robbery in 1993, when a gang fired 30 rounds from AK-47s, killing a woman passerby. One robber was shot by police during the chase; the others dumped his body on the street when they switched getaway cars.

  • Macau police believe Yip was involved in the enclave's biggest robbery, in 1994, when armed men snatched $5 million worth of gambling chips from the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

During the years that he brought fear to Hong Kong, Yip was portrayed by some papers as an underworld legend. The AK-47, the trench coat, the phantom-like disappearances into China -- they were all part of the folklore. But now there is a new hero. At the news conference to announce Teeth Dog's capture, the police introduced the young officers who had brought him down. As the photographers crowded around, camera lights flashing, one of the constables raised his fist in triumph -- Rocky style.

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