Police probe links to Mexican drug cartel

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 12:00am

Hong Kong police are investigating links between a Mexican drug cartel and a local company which has transported huge quantities of key ingredients of the designer drug Ice into the Latin American nation.

The gang, known as the Arellano Felix Organisation, is understood to be the focus of an investigation by officers from the US, Mexico and Hong Kong customs and the Narcotics Bureau.

The gang, based in Tijuana, is responsible for moving billions of dollars worth of Mexican and Colombian drugs into the US during the past 10 years.

The Hong Kong link emerged yesterday after Mexican authorities said they had seized nearly 4.8 million packets at Mexico City international airport containing two chemicals used to produce Ice.

They were found in a shipment of boxes on board a commercial flight out of Hong Kong, said Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, head of the organised crime unit at the Mexican attorney-general's office.

It amounts to more than 1.13 tonnes of pseudoephedrine and another antihistamine that could be used to make about US$4 million worth of Ice. Six men from Mexico City have been arrested. The cargo cleared customs in Britain, the US and Mexico City before being seized by federal agents, Mr Vasconcelos said.

He said the suspects, who face federal drug and organised crime charges, were part of a small cell of smugglers and producers connected to one of the country's largest drug gangs.

The Hong Kong Narcotics Bureau said that the bureau, Hong Kong police, customs and Department of Health officials had been helping US authorities with the investigation since May. Inquiries in Hong Kong were continuing.

Chief Superintendent Kenny Ip Lau-chuen, head of the Narcotics Bureau, said he had no details about the Mexican cartel. 'There have not been any arrests made in Hong Kong in relation to this inquiry,' he said. He rejected fears that Hong Kong and southern China were emerging as the world's Ice capital.

His comments follow the record seizure of four tonnes of Ice, worth up to $9.4 billion, in Guangdong in May. A combined operation by Shenzhen and Hong Kong narcotics detectives led to the raid on a storage base in Shunde and the arrest of 10 men.