Drug arrests of Hong Kong men prompt fears that city is trafficking hub

More than 500 kilos of crystal meth seized in Australia has come from Hong Kong in last year

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 May, 2013, 1:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 May, 2013, 7:03pm

Fears have risen that Hong Kong is being used as the main hub for trafficking methamphetamine to Australia after the fifth major drug bust in just over a year saw two men from the SAR arrested and HK$340 million worth of the drug seized yesterday.

In 13 months more than 500 kilos of crystal meth seized in Australia has come from Hong Kong. The haul is more than ten times that seized in the SAR over the past five years. A total of seven Hongkongers are now facing the Australian courts. Southern China is one of the world’s biggest producer of ephedrine – the main precursor chemical for ice.

Federal Police arrested a 35-year-old man and a 43-year-old man, both Hong Kong nationals, yesterday after 72 litres of the drug was intercepted last weekend when officers examined a pallet of shampoo, conditioner and hair colouring products that arrived by sea in Sydney from China. They were charged with attempt to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs.

Australian authorities would only say Hong Kong was just one of the countries working with them in their fight against methamphetamine trafficking. A Hong Kong police spokesman said they maintain close liaison with overseas law enforcement agencies and would exchange intelligence through established mechanism when necessary.

But the number of drug busts over the past year in Australia has been noticeable. In March police found 585kg of methamphetamine, worth HK$3.5 billion, in a container ship that arrived in Sydney from Shenzhen, via Hong Kong. Hongkonger Cheung Tuen, 51, was arrested.

Later that month Australian authorities smashed a crime syndicate that was operating across Asia, including in Hong Kong, leading to 27 arrests and the seizure of drugs and assets worth millions of dollars.

Last September Australian police uncovered a huge shipment of the drug Ice from Hong Kong hidden in a container filled with furniture. Authorities in Sydney uncovered 70kg of methamphetamine with a street value of HK$340 million after X-raying a shipping container from Hong Kong which was listed on its paperwork as holding outdoor furniture. Three men – one a Chinese national aged 32 – were arrested.

The arrests came after 558 kilograms of heroin and methamphetamine was smuggled into Port Botany last July. The discovery led to the arrest of seven people in Sydney, including four from Hong Kong. An exchange of intelligence with their counterparts in Hong Kong helped Australian police make the HK$4 billion drug haul and arrest the four men – Lee Man, 42, Tang Hin-yiu, 61, Lam Chi-man, 29, and 34-year-old Lok Hung-kai.

Finally, in April last year Australian Federal Police seized 42kg of drugs including crystal meth along with HK$32.3 million in cash. Australia’s Justice Minister Jason Clare said the syndicate had ties to China, including in Hong Kong and Macau.