Skip to main content

Transformers versus the triads of Hong Kong: the sequel

By Ramy Inocencio, for CNN
updated 10:33 PM EDT, Sat October 26, 2013
Hong Kong triads target Transformers production crews filming in the Chinese territory for the second time in five days. On October 17, street vendors assaulted director Michael Bay, pictured.
Hong Kong triads target Transformers production crews filming in the Chinese territory for the second time in five days. On October 17, street vendors assaulted director Michael Bay, pictured.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Suspected Hong Kong triads target Transformers filming second time in a week
  • Four men demand money from production team; one arrested, three escape
  • Shakedown follows assault on Transformers director Michael Bay for $13,000
  • Triad-related crimes rose 15% between 2010 and 2012, says Hong Kong Police Force

Hong Kong (CNN) -- For the second time in a week, suspected Hong Kong organized crime syndicates -- known better as triads -- have targeted the production of "Transformers: Age of Extinction" being filmed in the Chinese territory.

Four men attempted to extort an undisclosed sum of money from a crew member inspecting a rooftop shot location in the district of Kowloon Tuesday, the Hong Kong Police told CNN.

Police arrested and charged one 35-year old man with blackmail but his three partners remain at-large.

The attempted shakedown follows a suspected triad incident October 17 in which two men assaulted Transformers director Michael Bay.

Hollywood wooing Chinese viewers
Michael Bay apologizes for 'Armageddon'

Bay, 48, explained that every vendor that experienced disruptions from filming in the area "got paid a fair price for our inconvenience" but one man "wanted four times that amount" -- around $13,000 (100,000 Hong Kong dollars).

"I personally told this man and his friends to forget it," said Bay. "We were not going to let him extort us. He didn't like that answer."

The man returned an hour later, "carrying a long air-conditioner unit," added Bay. "He walked right up to me and tried to smack my face, but I ducked threw the air unit on the floor and pushed him away."

Hong Kong police arrested two brothers in connection with the incident.

In both episodes, triads -- known for their dealings in smuggling, prostitution and illegal gambling -- are believed to be involved.

"The two incidents associated with Transformers are indicative of low-level attempts to extort money from a big production by persons who may be triad members," said Steve Vickers, former head of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force's Criminal Intelligence Bureau and now CEO of Steve Vickers and Associates, a specialist political and corporate risk consultancy.

"The separate side of this is that the triad control of the movie industry in Hong Kong is a very complicated issue and has been in place for many years," added Vickers. "The triads strangle the oxygen out of the local movie scene. They're not just extorting people for money. It's control of movies, starlets and distribution."

In recent years, triad-related crimes in general have been on the rise, according to crime statistics from the Hong Kong Police Force.

For three years in a row, from 2010 to 2012, the number of triad-linked incidents rose nearly 15%. Most recent data for the first half of 2013, however, shows 988 triad-related crimes -- the second lowest reported number for the same time period over the past decade.

But "reported crime is not an accurate measure of triad influence," said Vickers. "Triad related crimes are under reported."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
A year ago, 1,000 garment workers died in the collapse of Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. Here's a look at what has changed since then.
updated 12:53 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Focus is on the fish as U.S. President starts tour with visit to legendary Tokyo restaurant.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Fireworks are fantastic and human endeavor has its place, but sometimes Mother Nature outshines any performance we can produce.
updated 11:06 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In 1987, China sent its very first email. Here's what it said,
updated 10:13 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
The world's new fastest elevator will fling you from earth to the 95th floor before you're done reading this article.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In one U.S. state, a new bill will allow ordinary citizens to carry guns in all sorts of places. Does it make you feel safer?
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
In South Korea, volunteer divers are risking their lives to rescue victims of the sunken ferry.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape as the Sewol ferry sank -- giving out life jackets while refusing to wear one herself.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
What did outgoing manager David Moyes get wrong in his six months with English Premier League football team Manchester United?
updated 1:36 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here are 15 of the world's most amazing theaters.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
CNN exclusive: Australian officials are hammering out a new agreement for widening the Flight 370 search area.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Malaysian officials sent to brief Chinese families are armed with little to no information.
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
When a team of Indian surgeons opened up the stomach of a 63-year-old man, they had no idea they'd extract a fortune.
updated 3:01 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Do these photos CNN of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are in eastern Ukraine?
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
If the Duchess wears it, then your fashion career is sorted for life.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT