Escaping police custody by swapping identities seems like a plot straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster, but police in Hong Kong are on the hunt for a suspect who did just that.
A 37-year-old man who had been detained on suspicion of drug offenses is thought to have slipped out of a court room in the city on Monday after switching his wristband with a suspect in a separate case who had been granted temporary release.
Hong Kong police said the escaped suspect, only identified by his surname Chan, disappeared shortly after he was denied bail by a magistrate at the West Kowloon Court.
Officers believe Chan swapped his wristband with another man, surnamed Lam, who had been granted bail in an assault case, and simply walked out of court. They believe Chan offered Lam, 24, money in exchange for the wristband and have arrested Lam on a charge of misleading police. They have also arrested Chan’s wife, 31, saying they suspect her of helping her husband to abscond by giving him money.
The police said they are pursuing Chan on suspicion of absconding, a charge which carries a potential prison sentence of one year.
Cases of absconding are rare in Hong Kong, a city of around 7 million people that is about six times the size of Washington, DC, but they are not completely unheard of.
In 2018, a fugitive managed to escape police custody through loose tiles in the ceiling of a hospital bathroom, after being re-arrested following three years on the run.
Leon Li, then a Chinese passport holder, was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of possessing a fake Hong Kong identity card. He left the city after being granted bail but was rearrested three years later when he re-entered on a Dominican Republic passport.
Following his re-arrest, he convinced police to take him to hospital for abdominal pain, then disappeared through the ceiling. He was apprehended 36 hours later at an upscale hotel in the busy district of Wan Chai.