Colombian held over drug-soaked bags

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2012, 12:00am

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A diligent sniffer dog at the airport has helped the authorities uncover a new tactic used by South American drug smugglers.

Police on Thursday arrested a 46-year-old Colombian man who flew in from Bogota after his travel bag was found to have packages of cotton soaked with a mixture containing 4.5kg of cocaine.

The three parcels, wrapped in aluminium foil, were sewn into the linings of his suitcase.

The cache is estimated to have a street value of HK$5.2 million.

Superintendent Ngan Hing-cheung of customs' airport command said the bag's weight and dimensions had raised suspicions.

'It was about three times heavier than a travel bag of the same design and same material,' he said. 'Our officers also discovered new lines of thread sewn into the bag.'

Officers used the sniffer dog after the suspect, who arrived at about 4.30pm on Thursday, was seen acting suspiciously in the baggage-collection hall.

'He was nervous, and this raised our suspicions. We then sent a sniffer dog to check,' Ngan said. 'When our dog approached him, he dodged and left, but it kept following him.'

The man was intercepted near the customs inspection counter. According to officials, he was being held for questioning last night.

The authorities said this was the first time they had come across this drug-trafficking strategy.

'Once a new method of trafficking illegal drugs is discovered in Hong Kong or overseas, we will alert our frontline officers to raise their awareness,' said Hui Wai-ming, from the customs' drug investigation unit.

Hui said the packs of cotton were disguised as padding. Further investigation showed that the cocaine was meant for local sale.

The authorities had further beefed up anti-drug measures following the heavy Easter holiday traffic. Last year airport customs seized 23.3kg of cocaine in 16 cases.