Enter the dragon fruit: liquid cocaine worth HK$15 million found injected into 98 fruits arriving at Hong Kong airport from Colombia

Customs officers spent more than four hours opening 160 boxes and checking nearly 2,000 fruits

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2016, 3:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 4:45pm

Liquid cocaine with an estimated street value of HK$15.7 million was found concealed in the hollow centres of 98 dragon fruits arriving at the airport from South America, customs officers revealed on Wednesday.

It was the first time such a method of drug concealment had been discovered in Hong Kong in about two decades, the Post was told.

The haul came after a team of customs officers at Hong Kong International Airport spent more than four hours opening 160 boxes and checking nearly 2,000 dragon fruits – also known as pitayas – one by one on Tuesday, two days after the air freight arrived from Colombia via Britain.

Describing the concealment method as “sophisticated” and “innovative”, a source said: “Part of the fruit layer was peeled off and pulp was removed before liquid cocaine was injected into the hollow centre and the layer glued back on.

“From appearance, it was hard to distinguish the ones concealing illegal drugs. Officers had to inspect them one by one.”

He said the 98 dragon fruits containing the drug were spread out over 50 boxes among other fruits that had not been tampered with.

“Each dragon fruit carried about 130 grams of liquid cocaine. A total of 15kg of liquid cocaine was seized inside the 98 fruits. The haul has an estimated street value of HK$15.7 million,” the source said.

A lorry driver, 36, was arrested when he tried to pick up the consignment at the airport’s cargo terminal on Tuesday night.

Another source said customs were still investigating whether the consignment was destined for local consumption or export.

By Wednesday lunchtime, the Hongkonger was still being held for questioning and had not been charged.

One of the reasons the consignment was chosen for inspection was because fresh fruit coming from overseas by air would usually be picked up on the day of arrival at the airport.

The seizure comes after a series of other recent drug busts in the city. On Saturday, customs officers found 1kg of cocaine concealed in the hollow centres of 17 candles in an airmail parcel from Brazil. In a follow-up raid, officers seized another 1kg of the drug and arrested three women in a Yau Ma Tei flat on Tuesday. The total amount seized had an estimated street value of HK$2 million.

Last Thursday, customs officers at the airport arrested a 21-year-old man arriving from Brazil via Dubai after 2.1kg of cocaine was found concealed in a false compartment of his suitcase.

Separately, the police force’s narcotics bureau arrested two men and seized 5kg of crack cocaine after intercepting a car in Hanoi Road in Tsim Sha Tsui at about 4pm on Tuesday. The haul had an estimated street value of HK$7.71 million.

The two Hongkongers, aged 20 and 33, were arrested for drug trafficking. Police said an investigation was ongoing.

Figures show total cocaine seizures rose 20.8 per cent to 145kg in the first four months of the year, from 120kg in the same period last year.