74pc increase in drug seizures at border checkpoints

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 May, 2009, 12:00am

Seizures of illegal drugs at land border checkpoints have risen 74 per cent this year, with 88 drug traffickers arrested, customs said yesterday.

Additional officers have been used in a clampdown on trafficking, and the number of sniffer dogs increased from 34 to 45.

Plain-clothes officers are disguising themselves as travellers and mingling with visitors at border control points, according to a source.

Among the 88 drug offenders, 22 were under the age of 21.

Ben Leung Lun-cheung, head of customs' Land Boundary Command, said criminals were recruiting more people to act as traffickers.

Previously, customs officers found most drug offenders carried small quantities left over after they took the drugs on the mainland.

'This year, we found drug traffickers carrying more drugs. Some tried to smuggle as much as 1kg of drugs into Hong Kong,' Mr Leung said.

Because of the economic downturn, people might be more willing to risk arrest and are therefore carrying larger quantities of drugs, he said, adding that traffickers used different methods to conceal the drugs. 'Drugs were hidden in brassieres or underpants,' he said. 'They are only discovered through body checks.'

Illegal drugs were also hidden in secret compartments in luggage or in Hong Kong-bound cars.

So far this year, customs officers have seized 19.3kg of illegal drugs - including 10.6kg of ice, 5.3kg of cannabis, 2.9kg of ketamine and 300g of heroin - with a street value of HK$9 million at land border checkpoints.

In the first five months of last year, 11.1kg of drugs were seized and 100 people were arrested.

Fight Crime Committee figures showed the number of teenagers arrested for drug-related crimes rose by 16 per cent to 324 in the first three months of the year compared with the same period last year.