'Mile high' thieves club? Passengers warned of thefts on board flights

One tourist had £275k worth of belongings stolen on a flight from South Africa to Hong Kong

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Briefcase in the plane

Police in Hong Kong are urging air passengers to protect their belongings following an increase of thefts on flights.

Mile-high criminal gangs are targeting travellers on flights to Hong Kong, with cash, jewellery and smartphones being stolen.

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In one case, South African passenger Warren Becker was robbed on a South African Airways flight from Johannesburg to Hong Kong on 21 December, losing £275,000 worth of belongings.

Speaking to Traveller24, he said: "When I checked my bag, which was locked for extra security, I found the lock broken and foreign currency as well as some extremely valuable jewellery had been stolen.

"They left all the South African Rands as well as my camera, as if to make it look like nothing was taken."

He added that when the flight landed the plane was searched but nothing was found.

Becker believes there was more than one thief and that a group was working together.

He filed a criminal complaint with police and complained to the airline but did not receive a response from SAA.

In August, an airport intelligence source told the South China Morning Post that detectives have not ruled out the possibility that organised crime gangs are behind the thefts.

"In one or two cases we have made arrests, we do not see a link developing into syndicates who commit overhead compartment thefts, but we cannot rule out this possibility of organised crime," the source said.

In the first half of 2015, Hong Kong International Airport reported a criminal haul worth a total cash value of HK$3 million (£268,000), which included cash, jewellery and electrical devices.

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