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The Special Escort Assignment

The aircraft carrying Peter Godber back to Hong Kong had just touched down at Kai Tak Airport. More than a hundred local and foreign journalists had already gathered there hoping to capture the moment the police officer arrived. They covered all major entrances and exits at the airport and some even staked out the ICAC vehicles parked just outside the airport gates. As everyone was eagerly awaiting Godber’s appearance, said to be just a few minutes away, there came the whir of a helicopter from the terminal’s apron. It quickly dawned on the throng of media people that Godber was already aboard that helicopter and that the elusive former Chief Superintendent had once again succeeded in “sneaking out”……

The Wild Chase

The ICAC had to overcome several major hurdles for the successful extradition of Godber. This partly explained why the security arrangement for Godber’s escort back to the territory had to be watertight.

Then ICAC Chief Investigator Wong Kwok-leung, who took part in the special escort assignment, recalled: “The case of Peter Godber had attracted intense media and public interest. We anticipated there would be a huge crowd at the airport so we decided to divert people’s attention by laying a false trail for crowd control and security reasons.”

He said every step of the trip from Kai Tak Airport to the Central Court was carefully planned. The security measures taken were the tightest ever.

Two ICAC vehicles were standing just outside the exit of the departure hall, leading some to believe that Godber was to be picked up there. At the same time, a helicopter was parked near where Godber’s plane landed. As soon as Godber went through the necessary immigration procedures on the plane, he was taken to the helicopter and flown directly to HMS Tamar in Central. From Tamar, Godber was then whisked by car to the Central Court. To avoid attention, the ICAC had used a private car instead of a government vehicle. That private car, among the luxurious few in Hong Kong, was in fact borrowed by one of the investigators from a relative. Dark tinted film covered the windows to shield Godber from cameras. Two other cars were rented to provide extra cover and to act as escorts during the transfer.

Time to Perfection

Mr Wong said every move between touch down at the airport and the appearance before the Court had to be perfectly timed. ICAC officers conducted several “rehearsals” to work out the exact time needed for each and every step. But nothing could be perfect…

“On the day of the operation, we did manage to divert the attention of the journalists and the crowd, but for only a short time. As soon as the journalists saw the helicopter carrying Godber away, they sped across town to Tamar. During the transfer by car from the Tamar helipad to the Central Court, there was a touch of panic as one of our escort vehicles suddenly broke down. Fortunately, the car was running again within a few minutes to allow us to complete the assignment as planned,” said Mr Wong.

The journalists were determined to seize any opportunity. Dozens of press cars and motorbikes were driven at high speed alongside the escort convoy. Mr Wong said: “I remember a motorbike driving up to us. On the back sat a cameraman facing backwards so that he could continuously take pictures of the car carrying Godber. That was a rather dangerous act, indeed.”

"Close" Protection

Mr Wong said apart from setting up decoys, other security measures were also in place. For example, the ICAC had, for the first time, deployed six armed officers and 20 other investigators to provide “close and personal” protection for the suspect. Together with the assistance provided by the Police Force, the escort party was of unquestionable quality and strength.

The head of the escort mission, the Assistant Director of Operations, was Godber’s personal bodyguard all the way from London to the Central Court. When the party arrived in Hong Kong, he even handcuffed himself to Godber, which was demonstrative of the tight security being provided in this high-profile case.

Mr Wong added that in devising this special security assignment, one major concern was to keep each and every operational detail absolutely confidential. All planning of the security measures was conducted in the house of the senior investigator in charge of the operation. Mr Wong said: “On the day of the operation, about a dozen of us gathered at the house and it was from his place that we embarked on our mission. Apart from some very senior staff and the escort team, no other person had any knowledge of the security plan.”

The Escort - Log of Events

What was the reaction of Godber when ICAC officers were getting ready to escort him back to Hong Kong from London? What happened on the flight? Here are the details as recorded by ICAC officers : -