Cocaine abuse hits new high

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 August, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 August, 1993, 12:00am

HONG Kong's socialites have hit a new high as record amounts of cocaine reach the territory through connections in South America.

Police have made three cocaine seizures this year, the last on August 10 when 4.35 kilograms of the drug valued at more than $8 million was found hidden in a suitcase during a raid on a Ngau Tau Kok flat.

Police said more cocaine was being smuggled into the territory from South America following the opening up of air routes.

According to one narcotics officer, the shipment of cocaine to the territory was believed to be part of a regular trade in Bolivian cocaine, organised by Chinese who had migrated to the capital, La Paz.

The value of cocaine is $1.6 million for a kilogram in Hong Kong, compared with about $7,800 in Bolivia. The same quantity of No 4 heroin, more widely used in the territory, sells for $390,000 in Hong Kong.

One businessman, who uses cocaine within a closed circle of friends, said: ''It happens a lot more than most people would imagine.'' He said suppliers sold cocaine for about ''$300 a line'', and that some users would go to bars in Lan Kwai Fong to take the drug, although, as far as he knew, none was supplied in the clubs.

The businessman said users were left alone by the clubs. ''There is a lot of hashish and marijuana, but the most popular drug at parties is cocaine,'' he said.

''Everyone has their own supply. They have their own contacts. It's very easy to get.

''These are high-calibre people buying drugs for their personal use. We are not talking about people carrying around 100 kilos of cocaine,'' the businessman said.

''They are the sort of people you would find in the social pages of the glossy magazines. These are the names everyone knows - people who are high profile and wealthy.

''I have taken it myself for many years. It is within my measures and I know exactly what to expect.'' He said many of his friends took drugs socially at least three nights a week.

''You have to remember there is a lot of social and peer pressure,'' the businessman said.

In February this year, customs officers at the airport seized 2.6 kg of cocaine, worth $4.7 million, from a male passenger with a Venezuelan passport.

Less than a month later, officers seized 700 grams of powdered cocaine and 500 millilitres of liquid cocaine worth $1.26 million from a 35-year-old Peruvian-Chinese cook who arrived on a flight from South America.

Both men are believed to be couriers working for a South American cocaine syndicate and smuggled the drug on to Varig Brazilian Airlines flights to Asia.

One narcotics officer said the amount of cocaine being smuggled on to the airline depended on the demand.

''We are targeting people bringing cocaine in from Bolivia,'' he said.

The largest seizure to date was in August 1991 when police seized 5 kg of the drug valued at about $9 million and arrested an ethnic Chinese gang from Bolivia.

This led to another raid in September 1991, in which officers seized two whisky bottles with liquid cocaine worth $5.4 million.