Bank of East Asia head office in Central, Hong Kong Island. Photos: Google Maps, Social media
Bank of East Asia head office in Central, Hong Kong Island. Photos: Google Maps, Social media

A man with a long criminal record was arrested less than five hours after he allegedly committed an armed robbery of a bank in Central on Hong Kong Island on Wednesday afternoon.

The suspect To Hoi-keung, 57, who had been convicted of robberies before, was arrested at his home in Tin Yan Estate in Tin Shui Wai, New Territories, at 7pm, Apple Daily reported, though other media put the time of arrest closer to 8pm.

Police say they recovered HK$70,000 (US$8,940) in cash and found a toy airgun in his home.

The robbery took place at 3:30pm at the Bank of East Asia head office on Des Voeux Road Central.

According to widely circulated surveillance-camera footage, a man who was not wearing face mask or hat threatened the bank staff with what appeared to be a pistol and made off with HK$70,000 cash in 16 seconds.

Hundreds of police officers were armed and sent to the area to try to track the robber down.

Soon after the police identified the suspect as To, a man who was linked to various heists at banks and jewelry shops and had spent much of his time in prison, they raided his home in Tin Shui Wai and arrested him.

To was involved in a gunfight with police in 1987 after he robbed Dao Heng Bank on Hennessy Road in Wan Chai and made off with around HK$150,000, Oriental Daily reported, adding that he once held six minibus passengers as hostages. He was then jailed for 16 years.

Soon after his release from prison, To was involved in several robberies of prostitutes, and one criminal-injury case. He received jail sentences ranging from two to 10 years.

In 2016, To, posing as a customer, was said to have stolen a golden necklace worth HK$23,000 from a jewelry shop in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon. He was arrested four days later and then imprisoned.

Read: HK police hunting armed bank robber who stole HK$70,000