Arrests highlight fears over Hong Kong's role in crystal meth smuggling

Arrests of Hongkongers in Indonesia highlight the city's role as a transit point for Ice trade

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 May, 2014, 4:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 May, 2014, 4:55am

The recent arrests of Hongkongers after a series of drug busts in Indonesia has led to fresh concerns about the city's role as an Asian narcotics hub.

Indonesia has long been plagued by Hong Kong and mainland Chinese organised crime syndicates, who move the drug Ice from its production point in Guangdong via Hong Kong and on to the archipelago, say police and the UN.

Also known as crystal meth, the stimulant is soaring in popularity. Seizures by Hong Kong police jumped to more than 165kg last year, from 73kg in 2012, while hauls of Ice pills on the mainland rocketed from six million in 2008 to 100 million in 2012.

Two weeks ago, Jakarta police arrested a Hong Kong woman following a 90kg seizure of Ice in the city's largest bust in two years. Last week two Hong Kong men were caught during a 9kg Ice deal.

"A narcotics syndicate from Hong Kong is back in action in Jakarta," said police outreach group Masyarakat Cinta Polri. "But this time their attempts have been foiled."

Hong Kong's triads have also targeted Indonesian migrant workers to smuggle drugs, say domestic helper rights groups. In February, Indonesia's national narcotics agency, BNN, solved a number of drug trafficking cases originating in Hong Kong, one involving an Indonesian maid.

A country report on Indonesia by the UNODC in February last year pinpointed the role of Hong Kong and mainland China. "Most of the crystalline methamphetamine smuggled from China exits from Guangzhou and then transits Hong Kong … or Singapore before entering Indonesia."

Indonesian police frequently point to Guangzhou as the source of much of the Ice seized.

Chinese smugglers typically sail to waters between China and Indonesia before giving the drugs to middlemen on fishing boats, said Deddy Fauzi Elhakim, deputy head of the BNN.

Although a traditional home for many of Hong Kong's triads, Guangzhou is increasingly host to African drug syndicates, who work closely with local gangs. In February, Jakarta police arrested nine members of a Guangzhou-based international drug ring.

Working on behalf of a Nigerian in the Chinese city, two of the members had attempted to smuggle Ice from Guangzhou to Jakarta using Hong Kong International Airport.

Such arrests fuel fears over the presence of the West African Drug Syndicate, an established international crime group known to smuggle narcotics into Hong Kong and across the region.

Sources say senior members of a Tanzanian drug outfit are active in Guangzhou and use Hong Kong as an entry and exit point.

Both Hong Kong police and the Security Bureau denied that the city was a transit point for drug smugglers.

"Hong Kong is neither a major narcotics production centre nor a significant illicit drug transshipment point," said a police spokesman.

"However, Hong Kong may be used as an irregular transit point due to its status as a highly efficient financial and transportation hub."

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