Police raid on fish farm nets $16m in cocaine

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 December, 2004, 12:00am

Police stormed a fish-farming raft that was being used as a cocaine factory off Sai Kung yesterday, arresting four men and seizing 400 litres of the drug.

The liquid cocaine, believed to have been smuggled from South America, could produce 20kg of the drug in powder form, worth up to $16 million, police said.

Those arrested included the suspected mastermind, a 41-year-old Hong Kong man, and the suspected chief drugmaker, a 46-year-old Peruvian, said John Ribeiro, a senior superintendent of the Narcotics Bureau. The other arrested men were from Hong Kong.

The raid by the Special Duties Unit followed the arrest on Sunday of a 72-year-old welfare recipient, who was caught with a record 10.3kg of cocaine after a business-class flight from Peru. Police and customs officers are investigating whether that $10.2 million haul is related to the Sai Kung operation.

Officers said they mounted yesterday's raid before the syndicate could produce its first batch of powdered cocaine.

Police have seized at least 60kg of cocaine so far this year, compared with 6.63kg in the whole of last year and 8.3kg in 2002. Mr Ribeiro said it appeared demand for the drug, which sells for about $800 a gram on the street, was growing.

Yesterday's raid was launched just after midnight. The factory was discovered in a tent on the raft off Yung Shue O. Officers believe the factory was at sea so that evidence could be disposed of easily.

The liquid cocaine was mixed with coffee powder - apparently it had been hidden in coffee granules for smuggling - and a chemical solvent in more than 20 drums.