Hong Kong customs have seized another HK$80 million (US$10.2 million) worth of cocaine, taking their total haul of the drug in April alone to 421kg, valued at about HK$420 million, as officers battle an international syndicate that has joined forces with local gangs to expand the Asian market, a source says.
The latest raid, in Tai Kok Tsui on Monday night, was the third major operation in a month and just four days after the Customs and Excise Department seized HK$240 million worth of the drug, a record for the city centre.
The total amount of cocaine confiscated in the three big raids in April outweighed the 255.4kg seized in the whole of 2018.
A senior customs source said a drug syndicate based in Mexico had recently lined up with local triad gangs, including the Wo Shing Wo, hoping to smuggle cocaine to nearby Asian countries via Hong Kong.
“Local gangs can help make logistical arrangements as they have good knowledge of the region,” the insider said, adding the cocaine involved was mainly shipped from South America.
“Locals also know better how to minimise risks or how to smuggle the drugs in cheaper ways. They can therefore advise the masterminds.”
The source believed small amounts of the drugs seized were destined for local markets as the syndicate had been supplying cocaine to local gangs for some time.
Locals also know better how to minimise risks or how to smuggle the drugs in cheaper ways. They can therefore advise the masterminds
Senior customs source
“By helping the ring to divert the narcotics to other countries, the local triads can source their drugs at a cheaper price,” the insider said. “We have arrested some key figures but expect more raids and arrests to follow.”
In Hong Kong, the street price of cocaine is about HK$1 million a kilogram.
In the latest raid, customs officers acting on intelligence picked up two male Australian passport holders, aged 18 and 28, outside the upmarket Island Harbourview residential development on Hoi Fai Road at around 7pm.
Philip Chan Siu-kau, customs’ divisional commander of the drug investigation group, said officers found 80kg of suspected cocaine slabs in two suitcases carried by the pair, who entered Hong Kong as tourists and were temporarily staying at an upscale flat in the development.
“We believe the narcotics were smuggled into the city by sea and destined for the Asia region via Hong Kong,” Chan said. “Large slabs of the drug were carried in suitcases and look similar to those netted in the previous two cases. We are investigating whether the three cases are connected.”
The series of raids started on April 3, when customs officers seized 91kg of suspected cocaine with an estimated market value of about HK$100 million in Sha Tin and arrested a 41-year-old man.
Around 4kg of the drug was found in the man’s rucksack while the rest, 83 large slabs of suspected cocaine, were stacked in his flat.
Last Thursday, customs seized HK$240 million worth of cocaine from a four-star hotel room and two flats, which led to the arrest of two male foreigners, an Eastern European and the other from Australasia. The suspects, aged 24 and 44, were described as important members of the drug crew.
Customs said traffickers adopted pricey camouflage tactics to curb suspiciousness by posing as high-end travellers, carrying drugs in suitcases made by famous brands and staying in upscale hotel rooms.
The slabs of cocaine were printed with markings such as “JG”, “JC” and “A”.
Overall, the total amount of drugs seized in 2018 increased 22 per cent year on year to 1,352kg. Customs arrested 393 people for drug-related offences, a 21 per cent surge. The amount of cocaine impounded also soared from 139.9kg in 2017.
Commissioner of Customs and Excise Hermes Tang Yi-hoi earlier this year said drugs were a global problem, not one faced by Hong Kong alone. He said the situation was under control and that Hong Kong was not a narcotics transit hub.
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