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The backstory: In the 80s and 90s, Hong Kong was no stranger to the infamous Yip Kai-foon, aka the "King of Thieves," for his jewelry store heists. On June 9, 1991, he pulled off a series of movie-like robberies on Mut Wah Street in Kwun Tong, creating chaos with his gang armed with automatic weapons. They made off with a significant haul after a firefight with police. Yip, along with other notorious criminals like Chueng Tze-keung and Kwai Ping-hung, became a symbol of the city’s era of organized crime.
Earlier that same day, three gang members robbed the Shun Fat Company watch shop in Sham Shui Po. Although they left empty-handed, they killed the shopkeeper, Cheng Kai-lam, in the process. The case has gone unsolved, but fingerprints were collected during the investigation.
More recently: Yip's wild run came to a dramatic halt in 1996 when a shootout with the police at Kennedy Town pier left him paralyzed below the waist. Legal troubles followed, with charges for arms possession and escape from custody. Yip's life took unexpected turns within Stanley Prison, including converting to Christianity and marrying his mainland wife. Then, in 2017, Yip passed away due to cancer, closing a chapter in Hong Kong's criminal history. But the Three Robber Kings of Hong Kong became iconic, inspiring films about Hong Kong’s organized crime wave.
The development: Hong Kong police have now made a noteworthy arrest connected to that buried murder-robbery case from 1991. Wen Wenye, a 59-year-old resident from Shenzhen, was arrested as he crossed the border for a funeral, closing a lengthy investigation that put him on the wanted list in 2021. Wen's identity was confirmed through DNA and fingerprints matching those found at the crime scene.
Wen was charged with murder and attempted robbery, and the case is set to resume on January 15. He’ll remain in custody pending further investigation by the police. Authorities haven’t said for certain if they’ve identified the other two suspects in the case, but they’ve said that they don’t see a connection between the Sham Shui Po robbery and the ones that occurred the same day in Kwun Tong.
“We believe the arrested man is one of the three robbers. We are still investigating his role – whether he was the one who fired the shot or tried to break the glass – but they were believed to have committed the crime as a group,” said police superintendent Alan Chung of the Kowloon West regional crime unit to reporters in Cantonese.
“Because of the serious and the brutal nature [of the crime], we will pursue them no matter how far they’ve gone or how discreetly they’ve hid,” Chung said of the other two suspects in the robbery.