The mastermind of an international drug syndicate that used a teenage boy as a drug mule has been jailed for 30 years.
Wong Tak-wai, 35, also known as Fat Gor, was convicted of five counts of conspiracy to traffic in dangerous drugs. This included recruiting the 15-year-old to smuggle methamphetamines from Shenzhen to Australia, via Hong Kong.
Wong's younger brother, Wong Tak- keung, 32, and assistant John Lee Hoi- tong, 45, both of whom were found guilty of one count of drug trafficking, were jailed for 19 years and 26 years, respectively.
The boy, whose father was heavily in debt, was lured by the gang to smuggle ice - totaling 4.3 kilograms and worth HK$4.45 million - six times between October 2009 and March 2010. He was tortured after some drugs went missing in Sydney.
Police asked the Court of First Instance to invoke a clause in the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance involving the use of minors to increase the sentence of the traffickers.
Under section 56A, stiffer sentences can be meted out whenever a person engages minors in trafficking activities, or supplies them with drugs. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
Officers welcomed the "severe punishment," saying society will not tolerate drug offenses.
"These traffickers will do anything," acting chief inspector Gary Tsang Chun- kit said. "[The case] sends a clear message to youngsters: drug trafficking is a dead-end road."
The force will continue to cite the ordinance to ask for extra penalties in all cases involving the use of teenagers in drug trafficking, Tsang added.
Lee's lawyer had pleaded for a lighter sentence, saying his client was only a "facilitator," and there was no evidence he was involved in beating up the boy.
Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling described the case as "very serious" as the scale of the gang's operations was large and international.
"The court does not tolerate drug traffickers who coerce minors to commit crimes. A tougher sentence serves as a deterrent," Justice Barnes said.
Officers learned of the syndicate after the teen tried to kill himself when he could no longer stand being beaten by the three men after he lost a shipment.
He became a prosecution witness after he told his tale to a nurse, who persuaded him to report it to the police.
The court heard Fat Gor lured the teenager by offering him HK$10,000 to smuggle drugs to Sydney by stuffing them in his sports shoes.
On his last trip, the boy lost HK$1.83 million worth of ice. He was locked up, kicked and punched by syndicate members both in Australia and here.
While testifying, the boy wept as he recounted how 1.5 liters of Coca-Cola was poured in his nose, and how he was threatened with death.