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Drugs

Hong Kong crewman in custody in the Philippines after HK$19 million worth of cocaine washes up on shore

The man is among nine crew members rescued off rough waters a day before fisherman discovers drugs on nearby beach

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 7:31am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 7:31am

Immigration authorities in Hong Kong are assisting a local crewman in custody in the Philippines and accused of smuggling about HK$19 million worth of cocaine into a country caught in the grip of a deadly drug war.

Responding to an inquiry by the Post, the Immigration Department said it received a request for help from a family member of the man.

“In response to a Hongkonger who was involved in a suspected drug case in the Philippines, the department immediately sought to understand the situation through ... the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines and the Chinese consulate in Cebu,” the statement read.

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The Post understands that the department received the request on Saturday.

According to media in Manila, the man was among nine crew members – six from mainland China, two from Hong Kong and one from Taiwan, sailing on cargo vessel Jin Ming.

Last Tuesday, the vessel was hit by huge waves and made an emergency docking near the shoreline of Pambujan, Northern Samar. A day later, the drugs were found washed up on a nearby shore, prompting authorities to suspect the two incidents were linked.

Christian Frivaldo, regional director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, confirmed last Friday that a local fisherman in the town of Matnog – about 403km southeast of Manila – discovered the narcotics packed in plastic drums.

He said 24kg of wrapped cocaine bricks were found and estimated the overall value of the stash to be about 125 million pesos, or HK$19.6 million (US$2.5 million).

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The crew members were rescued from the damaged ship and placed in custody.

“They are under investigation. We are checking their vessel to see if there is additional evidence inside. But it is difficult because it is half-submerged,” Frivaldo said last week.

The seizure comes amid Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that has resulted in nearly 4,000 “drug personalities” killed by police.

In July 2016, four Hong Kong men were arrested in the Philippines after a raid on a “floating crystal meth laboratory” moored off the country’s popular tourist resort of Subic Bay.

They denied charges of manufacturing illegal substances and possessing 500 grams of the powerful stimulant methamphetamine, also known as “Ice’’.

They are also in custody and facing trial in the country.