Ex-village chief gets 22 years for huge drug haul

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 March, 2011, 12:00am

A former village leader was jailed for 22 years yesterday for storing the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in the city - 232kg.

Mr Justice Peter Line described as 'staggering' the quantity, which exceeded by many times the largest amount specified in sentencing guidelines for drug-trafficking.

Pang Yuet-wan, 53, who was head of Tai Po Tin village, was sentenced in the Court of First Instance after earlier pleading guilty to trafficking in a dangerous drug.

The cocaine, with an estimated street value of HK$330 million, was discovered by police on the roof of the house he shared with his family.

'The amount of cocaine could be said to be staggering,' the judge said.

Sentencing guidelines for trafficking go up to 15kg, with a starting point of up to 30 years for defendants who plead not guilty and are convicted.

Pang's barrister, John Reading SC, said before sentencing: 'The defendant understands that he will go to prison for a long time.'

The judge took a starting point of 33 years' jail for Pang and gave him a one-third discount for his guilty plea.

Police discovered the stash on April 25 last year when they went to Pang's house in the village in Sha Tau Kok, senior public prosecutor Franco Kuan said. They had been to the house the day before with search dogs in response to a missing person report, and were returning for further inquiries. They found 372 slabs of an unknown substance on the roof.

Pang was arrested and admitted to police he had been asked by a Fei Leung - whom he had met through friends in the Netherlands, where he had worked as a cook - to store the drugs for him. In return, Pang would receive a reward of HK$5,000 per block of drugs. At the time of his arrest, he had received HK$300,000.

Pang told police his wife and sister had known the items on the roof were 'something bad' but had not known their contents.

The missing person, Cheung Ma-kei, was one of the owners of the drugs, the court heard.

Pang lived in the three-storey house with his wife and two sons, Reading said. His parents and a brother also lived in the house.

Originally from the mainland, Pang had worked as a cook in Antwerp, Belgium, where he met his first wife, and had opened a shark's fin restaurant in Surinam, Reading said. He later returned to Hong Kong, where he met his present wife and settled into the house.

'The temptation for getting HK$1.5 million merely for storing the drugs was too great for the defendant to resist,' the barrister said.

A senior police officer said yesterday police were still looking for Dutch-Chinese visitor Chang Ma-kee, whose disappearance had led to the record seizure.

'His whereabouts are not known and there is no record that he has left Hong Kong through legal channels,' the officer said. 'Our investigation shows he has had no contact with his family and there have been no transactions in his bank accounts since he was reported missing. As he has vanished for nearly a year, we suspect something untoward may have happened to him.'

Chang was believed to be the key figure in a Dutch trafficking syndicate, he said. He had come to the city last April to negotiate the price of the drug with a local trafficker.

Chang, 49, disappeared after he left a Tsuen Wan flat on April 22. Before he left, he told his wife to call the police if he did not return by 10pm.