Police forces need global co-operation to defeat the drug barons

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 2:41am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 2:41am

A massive anti-drugs operation that seized three tonnes of Ice - or crystal methamphetamine - from a single Guangdong village made headlines for three days in the new year. Within a week, a report in the Sunday Morning Post linking Hong Kong triads with one of Mexico's most powerful crime and drug syndicates made it look like the tip of an iceberg of a globalised illegal drugs market, as well as a major source of supply for the mainland operating under the protection of corrupt local officials.

The swoop on Boshe village in a notorious drug-production area centred on the eastern city of Lufeng also resulted in 182 arrests and the seizure of another 23 tonnes of precursor chemicals for drug production. Three days later police were still mopping up and tracking down fugitives from the raid. According to a local resident, they would have found raw materials and half-finished products in many houses. The crystal-meth haul is believed to be worth about HK$1.8 billion on the street in Hong Kong, although it is not clear whether it was for export or sale in China, where the price has been falling.

Mexican law officials have outlined ties between the Sinaloa cartel, a big player in the country's murderous drug wars, and Hong Kong's 14K and Sun Yee On, under which the triads help supply the cartel with precursor chemicals for the manufacture of meth, including for the American market. Philippines drug intelligence reports also link the crime gangs to a meth laboratory south of Manila that was recently raided.

Mexico's drug wars, which have claimed 60,000 lives since 2006, may seem remote. But the Guangdong raid and the Post's revelations demonstrate the importance of full participation by Hong Kong and the mainland in international co-operation to tackle the global drug trade. Significant cross-border drug hauls invariably follow tip-offs between national agencies. Only by joining forces and pooling resources can law enforcement uncover and share the intelligence needed to smash the networks and jail their organisers and corrupt officials.