Hong Kong chef busted with 48kg of cocaine in record haul for single passenger

Record haul from a single passenger stashed in paper, bags and quilts, while a Russian from the same flight was found with 12kg of the drug

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 August, 2013, 6:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 12:29pm

A 35-year-old Hong Kong traveller brought home 48kg of cocaine from Brazil two days ago, breaking the record for a drug haul from a single passenger.

The discovery was one of two cases of trafficking high-grade cocaine - worth a total of HK$58 million - foiled on the same day by customs officers stationed at Chek Lap Kok airport.

A Russian woman, 22, was found with 12kg of the hard drug as she tried to enter the city on Tuesday. Both took the same three flights en route from Brazil to Hong Kong, but no link has been found between them so far.

Both transited in Beijing, a significant new addition to the typical route of drug traffickers from South America, said Ng King-hong, head of the Customs and Excise Department's air passenger and apron group. "The two took advantage of the busy summer holiday and tried to blend into the crowd," Ng said.

It was the third seizure of cocaine in five days from passengers arriving from South America. On Saturday, officers seized 24kg of cocaine, just 2kg short of the previous record haul confiscated in 2011.

The local man and the Russian woman had made a "new and unique" journey, taking three flights totalling 27 hours, to bring the sizeable haul over from Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, the department said.

Along the way, they travelled to Madrid and then Beijing.

Drug traffickers from South America usually transited only once, at a European, African or Middle Eastern airport such as Dubai, Ng said.

The Hongkonger, who told customs he was a chef, stuffed 48 blocks of cocaine, each weighing 1kg, in his two suitcases. The drugs were wrapped in four layers - adhesive paper, compact bags, carbon paper and quilts. Ng said this was an effort to shield the stash from sniffer dogs.

The Russian, who claimed to be unemployed, hid her 3kg packets - a lesser seen way of drug packing - inside "false compartments" of four apparently empty rucksacks in her suitcase.

Both cases were busted during the department's special seasonal crackdown, without the help of intelligence.

Donald Wong Sui-cheung, head of customs' drug investigation bureau, said it was working with its Brazilian counterparts to uncover any syndicate activities.

While preliminary investigation showed the two travellers had no connection to each other, it was very likely both were controlled by syndicates, Wong said.

The drugs were believed to be destined for the local, mainland and Southeast Asian markets, he said. The two are due to appear in Tsuen Wan Court today to face charges of trafficking in a dangerous drug.

They face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a HK$5 million fine.