A 63-year old man has been detained in Beijing in what authorities have called one of the most brazen attempts to smuggle drugs through the Chinese capital’s airport and into Hong Kong.
Police say the Hong Kong resident, identified only by his last name Huang, or "Wong" in Cantonese, attempted to smuggle 24.6kg of cocaine from Brazil to Hong Kong on Tuesday last week, according to a report in the Beijing Times this Thursday. The report said it was the largest amount of cocaine ever seized by customs officers at the airport.
The Hongkonger, who identified himself as a gem trader, said he had been offered HK$30,000 and free flights by a friend for bringing two suitcases from Brazil. He told police he did not know he was transporting narcotics, according to the report.
The man had left Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, for the Spanish capital Madrid, where he transferred to a flight to the Chinese capital. He was supposed to continue his journey to Hong Kong from Beijing.
His capture comes after a series of large drug busts at Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong. Over the last weeks, at least six people have been arrested for attempting to smuggle large amounts of narcotics into the city.
On August 13, a 35-year-old Hong Kong traveller and a 22-year-old Russian woman were separately arrested by Hong Kong police for smuggling a total of 60kg of cocaine from Brazil. Both had used the same route Wong had intended using.
Transit luggage is generally not inspected at Beijing’s main airport, the deputy head of the airport’s customs office, Sun Minghui, told the Times.
Earlier drug busts had alerted Beijing customs to the smuggling route, he said, and allowed them to focus on passengers coming from Latin American destinations. If prosecuted and convicted, Wong could face the death penality.
Hong Kong’s maximum penalty for drug trafficking is life imprisonment and a fine of up to HK$5 million.
The amount of narcotics smuggled into Hong Kong has increased considerably since 2011. Last year, customs seized narcotics worth HK$1.02 billion, an increase of 413 per cent compared to the previous year, according to statistics by the Customs and Excise Department.