Pair get 15 years for smuggling cocaine to HK
A Paraguayan and his Chinese accomplice were jailed for 15 years yesterday for smuggling HK$67 million worth of cocaine from South America to Hong Kong.
The consequences of their actions were 'beyond imagination', Madam Justice Esther Toh Lye-ping said.
But the sentences she imposed on Andreoli Osmar Zoz, 21, and Lui Shing-chu, 21, were sharply reduced from 34 years, as they had helped police bring another suspect to trial.
The pair had pleaded guilty in the Court of First Instance to a joint count of trafficking in a dangerous drug.
They admitted their roles in smuggling about 58kg of cocaine into Hong Kong in June last year. The drug was hidden inside bricks carried in a shipping container. Zoz was recruited in Paraguay to ship the cargo, and Lui was to be paid HK$500,000 to store it temporarily at his home in Hong Kong, the court was told.
In passing sentence, Toh said: 'Although the court has sympathy for the two [young] defendants, the court has to pass a severe sentence taking into account the tragic consequences the drugs will have on the community. The consequences are beyond imagination.'
While neither man was the mastermind, their roles were still important, she said.
'The court has a duty to ensure that young people are protected from the evil consequences of the drugs,' Toh said. She said a harsh sentence could make it less attractive for young people to help drug syndicates.
Toh adopted a starting sentence of 32 years, increasing it to 34 years because of the large amount of drugs and the crime's international nature.
She then reduced the sentence to less than half because the two had helped police in the investigation. The pair testified against an alleged accomplice, who was eventually acquitted by a jury.
The court heard that Zoz, two South Americans and a Chinese went to the Hutchison Logistics centre in Kwai Chung on June 9 last year. The drug was hidden in 73 bricks.
Lui and another man uploaded the bricks into a truck and transported them to Choi Hung Estate, where Lui lived. Police intercepted them and seized the drug. Zoz was arrested at the airport five days later when he was about to leave for Paris.
An increasing number of Hongkongers are sniffing cocaine because it is cheaper and easier to get hold of than other drugs.
Central Registry of Drug Abuse data shows the number of regular cocaine users rose to 766 last year from 700 in 2008.
In the first half of this year, 11 per cent of new drug users took cocaine, up from 4 per cent in 2009.