$127m cannabis haul intercepted in police swoop

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 12:00am

A $126.8 million haul of cannabis was uncovered and three men arrested yesterday in Hong Kong's biggest seizure of the drug for five years.

More than 100 officers took part in the land and sea operation to intercept the 1.95 tonnes of the drug, which had been shipped in from Cambodia and was destined for markets in Hong Kong, Macau and southern China.

Investigators said the SAR was being used as a storage centre for the cannabis.

Acting Chief Superintendent Sin Kam-wah of the Narcotics Bureau said the haul was discovered after Hong Kong police exchanged information with Thai police. An inquiry into an international drug ring was launched by Hong Kong police after receiving a tip-off several months ago.

Officers intercepted a lorry and car at 8am yesterday in an ambush inside the car park of an industrial building in Kwun Tong and arrested three men.

A sea search involving Marine Police officers was launched off Tai Po after more than 300kg of cannabis was found in the lorry.

Officers located an unattended fishing boat anchored at the San Mun Tsai typhoon shelter and found more than 1.6 tonnes of cannabis below deck.

They said the boat was used as a floating godown to keep the drugs and the seizure in Kwun Tong had been the first batch to be collected from the boat.

'The seized cannabis was from Cambodia and the targeted market was for southern China, including Hong Kong and Macau,' Mr Sin said. Police believe the syndicate had shipped in such a large amount now because it wanted to avoid suspicion by moving boats around during the annual two-month fishing ban in June and July.

According to Narcotics Division figures, cannabis was the fourth most popular abused drug in Hong Kong last year. The number of reported cannabis users was 1,423, half of them young people. Heroin was ranked first, Ecstasy second and ketamine third.

The seized cannabis was placed under guard by armed officers while it was transported to Wan Chai police headquarters last night.

Last night the three arrested men, believed to be members of an international drug trafficking syndicate, were being questioned.

Officers were still trying to identify the owner of the fishing boat. They said the vessel had been berthed in the typhoon shelter for some time.

In 1996, Customs officers seized seven tonnes of cannabis - the biggest seizure of the drug - hidden inside a container at Kwai Chung container terminal. The drug arrived from Cambodia via Singapore and was on its way to the Netherlands.