60kg haul of drugs including cocaine, crystal meth, ketamine and ecstasy smuggled into Hong Kong hidden in play mats, sports shoes and canned fruit

Clifford Lo

Children’s play mats, sports shoes, canned fruit and tins of powdered milk are among many items international drug traffickers have used to conceal drugs in the past 2½ months, Hong Kong customs revealed on Thursday.

Almost HK$40 million (US$5 million) worth of illegal drugs – a 60kg (132lb) haul including cocaine, crystal meth, ketamine and ecstasy – were confiscated in 15 air parcels at Lok Ma Chau control point between October 23 and December 31 while being conveyed by delivery vans into the city from Shenzhen.

The parcels had been mailed from European and Asian countries.

According to the Customs and Excise Department, some ecstasy tablets were found mixed with dog food, while ketamine was concealed in sports shoes, boxes of powdered formula, and packages of meat products.

Children’s play mats, sports shoes, canned fruit and tins of powdered milk are among many items international drug traffickers have used to conceal drugs in the past 2½ months. Photo: SCMP

“The parcels were airmailed into Hong Kong from European countries such as France and Germany or Asian countries like Malaysia and Thailand,” a law enforcement source said.

The parcels were first sent to the sorting centres of logistics companies in Guangdong before being transported into Hong Kong.

Customs officers noticed the routing and enhanced inspection at the border checkpoint in an operation, code-named Wave, since October 23.

Customs seizes nearly HK$24 million worth of cocaine from two flight crew members

Following the seizure, customs officers posing as delivery workers took the parcels and arrested seven people – five men and two women – and seized another 480 grams of drugs.

Customs officers have enhanced inspection at the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint. This photo shows suspected ecstasy tablets mixed with dog food. Photo: Handout

“We believe some of the drugs were for local consumption to meet festive demand while others were intended for other countries such as Japan and Australia,” the source said.

He said the Customs Drug Investigation Bureau was probing the matter.

In Hong Kong, trafficking a dangerous drug carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a HK$5 million (US$642,000) fine.

The department said it would continue special enforcement operations from time to time to strengthen efforts against different kinds of dangerous drug trafficking activities.

Customs confiscated 1.9 tonnes of drugs in 739 cases between January and November in 2019, with an estimated street value of HK$930 million (US$119 million), compared with HK$390 million (US$50 million) in the same period of 2018. There was a 57 per cent surge in the quantity of drugs seized, although the number of cases fell by 10 per cent.

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