Customs intercepts HK$23m ketamine haul

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 July, 2009, 12:00am

Customs officials at the airport cargo terminal have made their second-biggest seizure of the drug ketamine, with a street value of HK$23 million. A Hong Kong man was arrested.

The 196kg seizure was nearly 41/2 times that of the 44kg that law enforcers found in the first five months of the year.

The drug was in 196 bags, each weighing 1kg, placed in three cartons that arrived from India on July 11. The three boxes also contained five bags of sugar and six bags of rice.

Matthew Wong Hung-san, head of customs' air cargo (import) division, said: 'The consignment was declared as bags. It is not common for bags to be delivered to Hong Kong from India by air cargo.'

He said it was suspicious because the goods came from India, which is a source country for ketamine. Another factor that alerted officials was that the address of the receiver - a trading company in Tai Kok Tsui - was incomplete, Mr Wong said.

The consignment was selected for inspection at about 3am on July 14 when it was picked up by a forwarder. It was scheduled to be loaded on to a Taiwan-bound flight the same day. The cartons were found packed with the bags of ketamine, sugar and rice when opened for inspection at the airport's cargo terminal.

Investigators believe the sugar could have been for mixing with the ketamine to increase the quantity.

After a week-long investigation, officers arrested a 31-year-old employee of the trading company at his home in Kwun Tong on Monday. He has been released on bail and no charges have been laid.

Tam Wai-lun, head of customs' airport command, said another air-cargo consignment, which arrived from India in November, was picked up at 3am at the airport and officers found it contained 307kg of ketamine and 10kg of methamphetamine.

'It's possible that criminals believe our officers are tired and dozing off in the small hours of mornings. They may think our inspection will be lax at this period,' he said.

He added that drug smugglers might also try to take advantage of Hong Kong's reputation for not being a source of drugs to smuggle the ketamine from India to Taiwan.

So far this year, customs officers at the airport have seized 330kg of illegal drugs worth about HK$50 million, compared with 470kg worth HK$100 million in the whole of last year.

Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen dismissed claims that the government had asked Shenzhen to lengthen the detention of Hongkongers caught taking drugs there. He urged people not to take drugs.

'Whether you do it in Hong Kong or on the mainland, this will hurt not only yourself but your family and friends,' Mr Tang said.

On Monday, some Hongkongers freed from a Shenzhen detention centre said officials had told them Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had asked for their five-day detention to be lengthened to 15 days.

Speaking in Hong Kong, Shenzhen Deputy Mayor Zhuo Qinrui said he had no idea whether the Hong Kong government had asked for an extension.