Colombians convicted after cocaine 'sting'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 July, 2007, 12:00am

Two Colombians have been found guilty of conspiring to import large quantities of cocaine from the mainland on a continuing basis.

It took only a few hours for a Court of First Instance jury to unanimously convict the pair, Wilson Alberto Corredor Medina, 33, and Jose Emil Villamil Diaz, 28, on a single count each of conspiracy to traffic in a dangerous drug.

Diaz had earlier pleaded guilty to another charge of possessing a small amount of cocaine.

The Colombians were arrested in a sting operation jointly conducted by Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The DEA flew in an undercover agent as part of the operation who, calling himself Antonio, pretended to be interested in bringing bulk quantities of cocaine into Hong Kong.

The court heard that the syndicate - a joint venture between a Colombian group and a Chinese gang - had more than 600kg of the drug on the mainland, and that it was planning to import still more for transshipment to other destinations.

Through an intermediary, or coke broker, known as 'George', Antonio established contact with Diaz, who called himself 'Bruce', and began negotiating to purchase 50kg of the drug with the understanding that further transactions would follow. An arrangement was eventually reached whereby Antonio agreed to buy 35kg, but there was a significant amount of distrust.

In particular, the syndicate was unhappy about doing the deal in Hong Kong rather than on the mainland. Antonio spent some time convincing them that he had well-placed contacts and safe locations for the transaction.

To prove he had the cash, Antonio arranged for a local agent to arrive by taxi at Scout Path, in Jordan, and momentarily 'flash' a wad of money for the benefit of Diaz and a Chinese woman, thought to be one of the principals of the syndicate.

It was arranged that a sample of about 1kg of cocaine would be brought to Hong Kong in order to prove that the syndicate had access to the drugs. Medina smuggled the drugs into Hong Kong and gave them to customs agents posing as Antonio's employees.

Video and audio recordings were taken of each meeting. The operation was wound up on March 9 last year and Diaz and Medina were arrested on March 16.

The defence argued that the level of DEA involvement had compromised the integrity of the Hong Kong investigation. But Mr Justice Peter Nguyen dismissed that line of argument. Sentencing was adjourned until next month.