Increase in drug seizures pushes up prices

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 September, 2009, 12:00am

The price of illegal drugs has gone up, a senior customs officer said yesterday, the result of disruptions to supply caused by several big seizures.

Cocaine costs about 20 per cent more on the street this summer than it did in April, with a gram now going for a little more than HK$900, figures show. The price of heroin was also up slightly, from HK$607 a gram in June to HK$652 in July.

The higher prices indicated there was a shortage of illegal drugs on the market, Donald Wong Sui-cheung, superintendent of customs' drug investigation bureau, said.

Customs seized 401.5kg of illegal drugs at checkpoints in the first eight months of the year, a 176 per cent increase over the figure for the same period last year.

Wong said ketamine was about 40 per cent more expensive and was less pure. Ketamine was HK$114 a gram in July.

'The drug shortage was the result of customs and police stepping up enforcement and making more seizures this year,' he said. In the latest operation, customs arrested a 27-year-old and seized 15kg of cocaine and 374 grams of crack cocaine with a combined street value of HK$14.3 million at his hotel room in Sha Tin around 11.30pm on Thursday.

Wong believes the consignment was intended for local consumption. Its origin had yet to be determined.

Customs redeployed manpower at checkpoints and increased the number of sniffer dogs from 34 to 45 this year. Plain-clothes officers were also disguising themselves as travellers and mingling with visitors at control points in an effort to collect information.

At the same time, police have conducted 100 drug-related raids in the past two months, with 149 people arrested and drugs valued at HK$1.34 million seized.

In the first seven months of this year, 730 people aged 16 to 20 were arrested for serious drugs offences, an increase of 10.4 per cent over the same period last year. More than 90 per cent of the cases involved ketamine.