Australian police are hunting two Hong Kong men after a young student was shot dead in a HK$21 million drug deal gone wrong.
The body of 20-year-old business student Jamie Gao was found floating off the coast of Sydney wrapped in a blue tarpaulin last Monday. He had been shot twice in the chest.
Gao's violent death and the hunt for the two men who drove to the drug meet with him is the latest in a string of recent incidents that highlight the key role Hong Kong organised crime groups play in the multibillion-dollar methamphetamine smuggling business between the SAR and Australia.
Two notorious former New South Wales police officers, Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara, have been charged with the killing, which took place after Gao allegedly met them as part of a methamphetamine deal worth A$3 million (HK$21 million). A week before he went missing Gao appeared in court over accusations of abduction and assault.
According to authorities, the two Hong Kong men may hold important clues as to why a student with no prior record of drug offences was in possession - and selling - a 3.1kg consignment of methamphetamine.
Australian media reports have suggested that the men supplied the drugs to Gao, whose mother was holidaying in Hong Kong at the time of his death.
According to UN data, most major shipments of methamphetamine to Australia originate in Guangdong, where mainland and Hong Kong organised crime groups dominate the illicit drugs market.
"Given that it was Ice, it is highly likely that it was sourced from your neck of the woods," said a source from Australian police circles.
"The fact that this recent investigation involved the three big Australian federal law-enforcement agencies - the Australian Crime Commission [ACC], the Australian Federal Police and Customs - indicates the seized drugs were part of a recent importation. Although several countries could easily be nominated, the involvement of Hong Kong-based criminals is a likely source."
Commonly known as Ice, meth is one of the most popular drugs in Australia, used by about 2 per cent of the population. Only the Marshall Islands and the Philippines have higher usage rates in the region.
In March last year, Australian authorities arrested 51-year-old Hongkonger Cheung Tuen following the seizure of a record 600kg meth shipment sent to Sydney from Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Less than three months later, two Hong Kong men were nabbed in Sydney following another huge bust.
A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime last week pointed to record global meth seizures, with demand in Asia fuelling the binge.
Numerous Australian officials have spoken out on the issue, including ACC acting director Judith Lind.
In April, Lind told a parliamentary inquiry that the market for the drug "remains the highest risk organised crime and illicit drug market in Australia".
Hong Kong police declined to comment.