Hong Kong woman caught with 8kg of cocaine at Taiwan airport in largest drug seizure in years

Paid HK$20,000, the suspect arrived from Dubai and was said to have urgently needed money

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 6:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 10:58pm

A Hong Kong woman could face the death penalty after being arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of trying to smuggle more than 8kg of cocaine into Taipei, according to Taiwan’s official news agency.

The haul had an estimated street value of almost NT$100 million (HK$25 million) and was the largest drug seizure of its kind in Taiwan in recent years, the Central News Agency reported on Thursday.

Taiwan’s Aviation Police Office told the agency the 27-year-old suspect, surnamed Li, urgently needed money because she had been unemployed for more than three months and had been paid HK$20,000 for the delivery.

Her case came to light about three weeks after three young Hongkongers were picked up in Bangkok on suspicion of carrying 12.3kg of cocaine worth more than HK$10 million into Thailand from Brazil earlier this month. The arrests were made at Suvarnabhumi Airport after Hong Kong police tipped off local authorities.

The three suspects, aged 19 to 24, told Bangkok police they had been hired by a Hong Kong woman, known only as ‘Ming’, and had been paid HK$8,000 each to carry the drug from Brazil to Thailand. They were intended to deliver the drug to Ming at a hotel in the Sukhumvil area of Bangkok. Police said Ming had left the hotel before officers arrived.

In the latest case, Li was picked up at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei on Wednesday afternoon after arriving from Dubai.

Taiwan authorities said the arrest was made after receiving a tip-off.

The Central News Agency reported that the woman had been placed under surveillance by police and customs officers after she landed in Taipei. She was arrested when about 8.05kg of cocaine were found hidden in her check-in luggage.

The agency said the suspect had committed a drug-related offence and was handed over to the local prosecution office for investigation. Police were looking into whether she had an accomplice.

The Aviation Police Office appealed to tourists not to break the law and engage in drug trafficking, which in Taiwan carries a maximum penalty of death.

Hong Kong police have warned of a growing practice among drug dealers of luring teenagers into the trade by using quick cash and free travel as bait.

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The force said drug dealers made offers via social networking sites and online discussion platforms. Teenagers were promised free air tickets and accommodation, or rewards of up to tens of thousands of dollars if they were successful in smuggling drugs. Common destinations included Australia, New Zealand and South American countries.

A total of 31 Hongkongers, including four teenagers aged between 15 and 19, were arrested last year either locally or overseas for drug trafficking.

Police figures showed cocaine seizures in Hong Kong rose last year about 97 per cent, to 576kg, compared with 292kg in 2015.