City admits to being a hub for drugs trade

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2007, 12:00am

Guangzhou seen as top smugglers' target

Guangzhou authorities have admitted for the first time that the city has become an international distribution hub for illegal drugs.

Guangzhou customs deputy director Chen Jianwen said yesterday that Guangzhou's prosperous economy and good transport links made it 'a good consumer and wholesale market for drugs'.

'Although cases of drug mules have come down since December after our crackdown, we are still discovering seven to eight cases every month,' Mr Chen said. 'But several years ago there were only about 10 cases each year.'

He said the customs agency and police believed some international traffickers, mainly African nationals, controlled distribution networks in Guangzhou.

Mr Chen said Guangzhou customs first discovered international drug mules were flooding into the city in September when officers picked up seven African drug couriers who had swallowed up to 1.5kg of heroin each in capsules.

Mr Chen said the mules were mainly Africans and Southeast Asian citizens flying into Guangzhou. Most boarded flights from Egypt, Pakistan, India or Myanmar, and travelled via Bangkok.

After customs officials stepped up monitoring at Guangzhou's Baiyun International Airport, traffickers began choosing new channels, such as courier and train services, to move the drugs.

He said that in November alone, customs officers discovered 21 drug express mail packages from Nepal, Brazil, Thailand, and Nigeria. The drugs were hidden in shovels, used car parts and books.

Authorities also arrested four drug couriers at Guangzhou East station in March after they entered the city on the Guangzhou-Kowloon train, the first time foreign drug mules had been picked up at a Guangzhou railway station.

'Even couriers from Central Asia, via Xinjiang, target Guangzhou as their destination,' Mr Chen said.

A mainland drug crime analyst said the government was being sincere by admitting the seriousness of the situation but she was pessimistic about its chances of combating drugs in the city by itself, saying it was an international issue.

'I believe there will only be drug sales if there is drug production,' she said.

She said the most important thing was to eradicate the sources of the drug, such as the Golden Triangle - spanning Thailand, Myanmar and Laos - and the Golden Crescent, spanning Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, 'which is so hard to accomplish'.

She said the worsening situation in Guangzhou could not be blamed on a shortage of police numbers or a lack of officers fluent in English or other languages such as Burmese and Urdu.

She said the major factors in the drugs surge were the city's convenient transport system and the huge number of wealthy customers in the Pearl River Delta.

'All businessmen know how to choose their market, so do the traffickers,' she said.

Guangdong police said yesterday that 110,000 people in the province were addicted to heroin, about one-seventh of the national total.