ORGANISED CRIME

Record 62kg liquid cocaine bust at Hong Kong airport worth $65 million: bags of liquid hidden in imported machine sparked investigation

Customs officers found the drugs concealed inside an industrial machine that had come from Colombia via the US; three men arrested

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, 6:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, 6:58pm

Customs officers have made a record seizure of 62kg of suspected liquid cocaine hidden in an industrial machine imported from Colombia via the United States.

Three Hong Kong men were arrested and released on bail, pending further investigation.

The drug, with an estimated market value of about HK$65 million, was concealed in an air consignment, declared as an industrial machine, weighing about 400kg.

The industrial mixer arrived at the airport on November 7 and was detained by customs officers acting on intelligence.

READ MORE: Cocaine worth HK$1.9m hidden in eagle sculptures

X-rays revealed suspicious images showing thick layers of plastic. Traces of cocaine were also detected on the surface of the consignment.

The machine was then dismantled and bags of suspected liquid cocaine were found concealed in the machine.

Follow-up operations by customs officers over the past month led to the arrest of three men, aged from 33 to 38. They were put on bail pending further investigation.

Investigators are trying to determine the final destination of the drug.

Lee Kwok-keung, group head (airport investigation) of the customs drug investigation bureau, said today: “We do not rule out that there will be more arrests.

“There is no evidence showing Hong Kong has become a transit hub of dangerous drugs.”

Lee also said customs would deploy more officers at checkpoints to crack down on cross-border drug trafficking during the Christmas and New Year holiday.

READ MORE: Two South Americans held as cocaine worth HK$18 million seized in Hong Kong raids

Because it is difficult to detect, liquid cocaine has become increasingly popular with drug smugglers. Cocaine powder can be dissolved in water and then disguised as innocent products.

In 2014, customs detected 53 cocaine cases in Hong Kong. In the first 11 months this year, there were 96 cases.

In August, customs found 760 grams of suspected liquid cocaine in an inbound parcel from Brazil intercepted at the airport.

In October last year, customs at the airport found 20kg of cocaine solution in bottles of skin and hair care products in the suitcase of a tourist arriving from South America.