'Ice Queen' gives police the slip
THE hunt for one of the world's top drug dealers, known as the ''Ice Queen'', has widened, with police believing she has slipped out of Canada.
Hongkong resident Ms Lee Chau-ping is alleged to be the mastermind behind the world's largest ''ice'' production syndicate, which in three years manufactured more than four tonnes of the drug.
After three years heading the multi-million-dollar ice empire, she is broke and on the run following an international police operation in which more than 50 people have been arrested.
Hongkong detectives have restrained millions of dollars worth of assets belonging to Ms Lee since she left the territory last May, including property worth $20 million and $4.2 million in cash.
In China, detectives have raided at least seven processing plants and seized drug-manufacturing equipment and more than $500,000 in cash.
Meanwhile, Canadian officials are in the process of restraining two properties in Vancouver, several cars and other assets worth an estimated C$1 million (HK$6.2 million).
Chief Inspector Sandy Boucher, of the Narcotics Bureau, said Ms Lee and six other Hongkong people were being sought.
''All are principals in the syndicate,'' he said.
''We are looking for the head of a syndicate, a Hongkong Chinese citizen. She is an extremely significant figure.
''She ran the biggest [ice] syndicate. She ran it, set it up and was the brains behind it.'' Inspector Boucher said the woman became the subject of a major international search last May when Chinese police moved against the syndicate, which was the main supplier of ice to Japan and the Philippines.
There, Ms Lee was questioned by immigration officials on arrival, but was allowed to become a ''landed resident''.
Four months later during a raid on one of her Vancouver homes she was interviewed again.
It was decided there was insufficient evidence to bring a successful prosecution against her, but her travel documents were confiscated.
Ms Lee disappeared soon after and is believed to have gone to another country.
If arrested in Canada Ms Lee could face extradition to Hongkong.
But a spokesman for the Commission for Canada said new legislation would allow Ottawa to review her rights to remain in the country.
However, if she goes to China and is convicted of drug trafficking she is likely to face the death penalty.