Six foreign drug traffickers jailed up to 27 years

The law has to ensure city doesn't become drug transit centre, says judge in six foreigners' trial

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 5:01am

Five Mexicans and an American have been jailed for up to 27 years in one of the city's biggest drug trafficking cases.

In sentencing yesterday, Deputy Judge Mr Justice Gareth Lugar-Mawson described the case - involving cocaine with a street value of more than HK$500 million - as an extremely bad example of international drug trafficking. Saying he believed most of the cocaine was bound for the mainland, Lugar-Mawson said the law had to ensure Hong Kong would not become a drug transit centre in Asia.

The six were arrested in September 2011 and 538 kilograms of cocaine was seized in an operation police said smashed the Hong Kong operations of an international syndicate.

American Heric Rivas, 26, and Mexicans Josue Mario Bravo Galindo, 33; Jose Duarte Gomez, 36; Maria Elena Bazua Tapia, 34; Elmer Murillo Medina, 41; and Talina Prieto Vazquez, 29, were given jail terms ranging from 17 years and four months to 27 years.

All had pleaded guilty except Vazquez.

The court earlier heard that in September 2011, five containers containing plastic waste were shipped from Bolivia to Hong Kong. The contents were stored at a warehouse in Tuen Mun. On September 15 and 16, the six were arrested after being seen going in and out of the warehouse.

A search found more than 430 kilograms of a mixture which contained more than 340 kilograms of cocaine. More of the drug was found at a flat in the Nob Hill estate in Mei Foo, occupied by the traffickers.

Lugar-Mawson agreed with defence lawyers that Gomez had taken a leading role, as a local area manager, but he was not the mastermind of the syndicate.

Gomez was responsible for shipping the plastic waste from overseas to Hong Kong, he said, while the other five were movers who carried the drugs around the city. They were "as evil" as those who commanded them, Lugar-Mawson said.

The defence counsel said their refusal to name top members of the syndicate in Mexico should not be used against the defendants, as revealing the information would put their family members at risk. Narcotics Bureau detective senior inspector Cheng Ka-chun said outside court that the police had smashed the syndicate's activities in Hong Kong.