Authorities confident of drug-bust boy's safety

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 2011, 12:00am

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Hong Kong authorities and Mexican diplomats say special security arrangements will be put in place to protect a two-year-old boy separated from his parents, following their arrest in the city's largest cocaine seizure this month.

Mexican diplomats say 'all the necessary steps and measures' will be taken to ensure the child's safety after his return to Mexico.

While his parents are in custody, along with four other suspects, the boy is being looked after by the Po Leung Kuk orphanage in Causeway Bay as police discuss his highly unusual circumstances with Mexican authorities. Exactly when the child will return to Mexico is a secret.

With a vicious drug war raging in Mexico - which has claimed 40,000 lives since 2006, some of them children - there may be no guarantee the boy will be safe in Mexico, but he is to be sent there at his parents' request.

'Regarding the repatriation of the child, the Mexican state is taking all the necessary steps and measures to protect, secure and guarantee the integrity of the minor and the consulate general of Mexico will provide the assistance required towards this end,' a consulate spokesman said.

Kidnapping of family members involved in Mexico's drug wars has been rife, to ensure the silence of those arrested, but the Mexican consulate general in Hong Kong was confident the boy would be safe.

A Hong Kong police spokesman said the child's parents had requested that their son be returned to relatives in Mexico and had no fears for his safety.

'The Mexican consulate in Hong Kong is presently offering assistance in this matter, and has given assurances that the child will be safely returned to his relatives in Mexico,' a police spokesman said.

The Social Welfare Department would only say that they were 'not in a position to comment on issues in Mexico'.

The boy is to be looked after by relatives in his hometown, which was not disclosed, and consulate officials will continue to visit him at the orphanage until he leaves.

More than 1,300 children and teenagers have died in Mexico since the beginning of the drug war in December 2006, according to the Network for the Rights of Children in Mexico (Redim). They lost their lives in the fight against organised crime that began when Felipe Calderon became president in December 2006.

Redim warned that about 27,000 adolescents were also the victims of exploitation by drug traffickers. In January this year, the Mexican government issued statistics stating that 34,612 people had been killed since December 2006, a figure now thought to have reached 40,000.

The boy, who arrived in Hong Kong with his parents early this month, was found on September 16 when officers from the narcotics bureau arrested the couple and four other people in Fuk Hang Tsuen, Tuen Mun, and seized 50kg of cocaine. Sniffer dogs later led police to a further 467kg of the drug concealed in heaps of plastic waste in a recycling warehouse in the village, while another 50kg was found in a Cheung Sha Wan flat.

Police said the total haul of 567kg was estimated to be worth HK$600 million, the largest seizure in the city's history.

Police are liaising with law enforcement agencies in other countries, including Mexico, to follow up the case.

The cocaine seizure comes as Reuters reports that a former top Bolivian anti-drug official was sentenced to 14 years in a US prison on Friday in a cocaine deal that also has connections with Hong Kong.

US prosecutors said retired General Rene Sanabria and a Bolivian police official requested a payment of US$260,000 be deposited in Hong Kong bank accounts.

Sanabria, a former head of Bolivia's leading counter-narcotics unit, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.