HK police go to Manila for drugs probe
Raissa Robles in Manila
Anti-narcotics police from Hong Kong are flying to Manila to help identify five suspects caught in a raid on an Ice factory in an upmarket gated housing estate.
The five men claimed to be Hongkongers but had 11 passports between them, 10 allegedly issued by the Hong Kong government.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will also ask the Hong Kong officers to help it investigate a large shipment of chemicals and laboratory equipment seized last week from the Port of Manila.
PDEA director general Jose Gutierrez told the Sunday Morning Post that drug cartels were suspected of planning 'to make this country a major manufacturing hub, designed not only for here but for southeast China'.
Valued at 37.5 million pesos (HK$6.8 million), the items were in six 20-foot cargo containers. Three contained the chemicals butyl acetate, caustic soda and sulphuric acid, imported without PDEA clearance. Inside another container were laptop computers and laboratory equipment including drying and filtration systems and voltage regulators misdeclared as kitchenware.
The remaining containers had laboratory glassware misdeclared as plastic kitchenware. All were imported by Bitancor Enterprises, but no one came to claim them.
The items seized included 82 industrial-sized flasks used for making amphetamine-type stimulants, such as methamphetamine hydrochloride, or Ice, and the banned drug Ecstasy.
Gutierrez would not say whether the five men detained were suspected triad members or whether they were being linked to the seized equipment. But he noted that the Ice factory raided inside the exclusive, gated Alabang Village was only equipped to manufacture eight to 10kg of Ice every three days. 'Can you imagine what they intended to do with 82 flasks?'
He said that in 2004, the authorities foiled a plan to make the Philippines a major production hub when they shut down an Ice factory in Cebu capable of turning out one tonne of the drug a year.
Since then, he said, drug syndicates had switched to smaller, 'kitchen-type labs', like the one raided inside Alabang Village. Two similar factories have since been found abandoned in the same village.
Gutierrez said he feared the equipment indicated there were plans to revert to one massive drug factory. 'This remains part of the investigation with Hong Kong,' he said.
When the five suspects were arrested on January 5, they identified themselves as 33-year-old twins Choi Yiu-kit and Choi Yiu-chun; Ken Ming Chao, 49 (alias Lam Tse-kin); his older brother Lam Ka-chun, 51; and Kwok Chi-keung, 42.
Gutierrez said one has a British passport. Two have Hong Kong passports, and two have four passports each - all purportedly issued by the Hong Kong authorities.
'That's why our Hong Kong counterparts are coming over to see the passports. Which of them is the authentic passport, we don't know,' Gutierrez said. 'I don't even know what their real names are.'
He also said three of the suspects were found not to have passed through Philippine immigration.
He said the PDEA was also in contact with United States drug authorities after the suspect surnamed Lam turned out to have been subject to a drug-related arrest in New York.
Last year, the PDEA seized 4.67 billion pesos worth of banned drugs and equipment, and arrested 10,636 people in anti-narcotics operations.