China, US net record cocaine seizure

By Abrad · May 10, 2006 · ·
  1. Abrad
    By Tonny Chan (China Daily)
    Updated: 2006-05-10 05:52

    A tripartite operation involving the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and the United States has resulted in the seizure of 142 kilograms of cocaine with a market value of HK$105 million (US$13 million) and the arrest of nine suspects in three Pearl River Delta region cities.

    Customs officers Song Min (L), deputy director general of anti-smuggling bureau of the Shenzhen Customs, Ben Leung (C), Hong Kong's head of customs drug investigation bureau and Sin Wai-sun, divisional commander of Hong Kong's drug investigation, display seized cocaine and related props during a news conference in Hong Kong May 9, 2006. Hong Kong, China and U.S. drug enforcement bureaus have smashed a Colombia-based cocaine trafficking syndicate. A total of 142-kilograms of cocaine, with an estimated market value of HK105 million ($134,600) and a nine people were netted in mainland China and Hong Kong. The nine made up of three Colombians, a Venezuelan, three Chinese and two Hong Kong residents.
    Customs officers Song Min (L), deputy director general of anti-smuggling bureau of the Shenzhen Customs, Ben Leung (C), Hong Kong's head of customs drug investigation bureau and Sin Wai-sun, divisional commander of Hong Kong's drug investigation, display seized cocaine and related props during a news conference in Hong Kong May 9, 2006. Hong Kong, China and U.S. drug enforcement bureaus have smashed a Colombia-based cocaine trafficking syndicate. [Reuters]

    This is the first time that law enforcers from the three jurisdictions have co-operated to bust an international drug ring.

    Officials said the success would pave the way for even closer cross-border co-operation to stem the flow of illicit drugs.

    "In a globalized economy, borders blur. Drug syndicates also take advantage of it. No country can deal with them alone without international co-operation," Ambrose Lee, Hong Kong's secretary for security, said at a news briefing yesterday.

    Here's how the sequence of events unfolded:

    In January, the United States passed on intelligence to the Hong Kong authorities that a large amount of cocaine had been shipped to southern China from South America and the syndicate was keen to find buyers in the special administrative region (SAR).

    Hong Kong customs tracked down a suspect in the SAR and placed him under constant watch, Customs Drug Investigation Bureau chief Ben Leung said.

    In late January, the suspect left for neighbouring Shenzhen where customs officers took over the surveillance, which lasted for more than a month.

    In mid-March, undercover agents from Hong Kong posed as potential buyers and met a syndicate member in the SAR and obtained a slab of cocaine whose street value is HK$744 (US$93) per gram as a sample.

    On March 15, Shenzhen Customs arrested two Hong Kong residents one fluent in Spanish and a mainlander; and seized 5 kilograms of cocaine.

    The next day, Shenzhen Customs stormed a house in neighbouring Zhongshan and found 136 kilograms of cocaine. A woman was arrested.

    On March 16, Hong Kong trailed two Colombians and arrested them.

    On March 17, Shenzhen rounded up the remaining three suspects a Colombian, a Venezuelan and a mainlander.

    "It's evident that the syndicate wanted to establish a market in the mainland and Hong Kong and also re-export drugs to West Africa and Thailand," Leung said.

    The drug was believed to have originated in Colombia, and taken to Venezuela and Brazil before heading for southern China by sea.

    "This is a very successful example," Zhou Zhiwu, director of Shenzhen Customs, said of the joint operation. "We fought a beautiful battle."

    James Cunningham, the US consul-general in Hong Kong, said the exercise was significant not only for intelligence sharing but also in strengthening the partnership between the US Drug Enforcement Administration and its Asian counterparts.

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  1. Alfa
    Why is this a record? Larger quantities are confiscated monthly all over the world. If they haven´t found more by now that says more about how corrupt chinese authorities are, then about quantities transported. Hell, London alone consumes more than that in a season.
  2. enquirewithin
    Yes. If they have intercepted that much, how much have they missed?
  3. mopsie
    BEIJING ( AP ) -- Chinese and U.S. agents seized more than 300 pounds of cocaine smuggled from Colombia, authorities said Tuesday - a record drug bust for China that underscores how South American narcotics gangs are aggressively moving into Asia.

    Nine people were arrested. Chinese television footage showed a locker stacked high with dozens of bricks of smuggled cocaine, some with a yin yang symbol embossed on the solid white blocks.

    The suspects include two Colombian citizens arrested in Hong Kong, along with suspects from Hong Kong and mainland China, said Liu Guangping, spokesman for the Customs General Administration of China.

    "It's pretty clear from this just how daunting a task we face," Liu told reporters. He said it was by far the largest seizure of cocaine ever made in China.

    A joint inquiry by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and customs agents in Hong Kong and mainland China uncovered the network of Colombian drug gangs and criminals from Hong Kong and China. They were working to distribute "multi-hundred-kilogram ( pound ) quantities" of cocaine in Asia, said William Fiebig, a DEA special agent based in Beijing.

    "This is extremely significant as it confirms that Colombian drug trafficking organizations are expanding their distribution operations into Asia and that large quantities of cocaine are already being imported into the mainland," Fiebig said.

    Agents said the gang intended to send at least some of the cocaine overseas again, first to Hong Kong, then to Thailand and as far away as West Africa.

    "It's a market, a huge market," said Fiebig. "Why are other businesses coming to Asia?"

    Liu said authorities also discovered a drug lab tied to the gang during their investigation. No details were given, although photos of the raid provided by police showed bottles of ethyl ether - a key ingredient in making highly addictive crack cocaine.

    Following the communist revolution in 1949, China virtually wiped out opium use that had afflicted as many as 20 million addicts and crippled the economy. Stocks were destroyed, traffickers executed and millions of users forced to quit cold turkey or be sent to labor camps.

    Drug use came roaring back in the 1980s following economic and social reforms that raised incomes and curbed some government intrusions into daily life.

    Most recent drug-related problems - including the spread of AIDS - have been linked to heroin from Southeast Asia's "Golden Triangle," of Burma, Laos and northern Thailand, which abut southern China, as well as from Central Asia's opium-producing "Golden Crescent" region.

    But other narcotics are making inroads: Liu said Chinese agents have recorded a 435 percent increase in drug seizures in the first three months of this year from a year earlier, with almost half of them synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine, Ecstasy and ketamine. The remainder was mostly heroin.

    Rogene Waite, a DEA spokeswoman in Washington, said, "As more money comes into the Chinese economy, the market for drugs, unfortunately, grows concomitantly."

    China has almost 1 million registered drug addicts, while the number of actual users is believed to be far higher. Concerns about the worsening drug problem prompted communist leaders in April 2005 to announce a "People's War on Drugs," appealing for public help to rehabilitate addicts and offering rewards for help in catching traffickers.

    Arrests in the cocaine case began March 15 after a three-month investigation, agents said. Footage shown on state television showed plainclothes officers tackling suspects from behind and throwing them to the ground on the street and in a department store.

    Most of the drugs were discovered inside a wooden bed frame in a building in Zhongshan, an industrial district in southern China just hours from the border with Hong Kong. The equivalent of about $25,000 in Chinese and Hong Kong currency also was seized, Liu said.

    Arrests and seizures continued until March 17, Liu said, adding the investigation was aided by key intelligence from the DEA.

    Chinese and U.S. authorities have been stepping up cooperation in recent years as the drug trade between the two countries grows. The DEA quietly opened an office in Beijing about five years ago.

    Fiebig said the agency has been working closely with China's anti-narcotics agency, but the cocaine case marked the first time Chinese customs has worked with U.S. authorities on a drug investigation.

    "We hope this will lay out a model for the future," Fiebig said. He wouldn't reveal details of the investigation, but said agents "shared intelligence, combined investigation resources and coordinated investigation activities, all in real time."

    Officials said they were still preparing charges against the nine suspects, who could face the death penalty in China if convicted of smuggling. No requests have been received to extradite the two Colombian suspects from Hong Kong to their homeland, they said.

    source mapt
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