A blow was struck against international money-laundering yesterday when a judge delivered an unprecedented ruling that police had been entitled to confiscate almost $2 million in cash from a passenger at the airport. It is the first time the Commissioner of Police has used laws introduced in 1995 to make it easier to forfeit drug-trafficking proceeds. Lin Xin-nian, 39, a Canadian resident with a mainland passport, was stopped at Chek Lap Kok in October 1998 and found to have C$380,060 (HK$1.9 million at the time), stuffed in his suitcase and trouser pockets. He has not been charged with any crime, but Deputy Judge Michael McMahon ruled the money could be confiscated under the Drug Trafficking (Recovery of Proceeds) Ordinance. The Court of First Instance had heard evidence, gathered in a joint operation with Canadian police, of Mr Lin's links to members of a heroin syndicate in the Canadian cities of Vancouver and Toronto. 'In my view, the high likelihood is that the monies did represent the proceeds of drug trafficking rather than any other unlawful or lawful activity,' Judge McMahon said. 'The evidence which I find convincing in that regard includes the fact that a large part of that sum of C$380,060 was made up of small denomination banknotes.' He said he took into account the evidence of a police witness that drug deals at street level in Canada usually involved payment in small denomination notes. 'It is obvious that the associates of the respondent were involved on a very large scale with drug trafficking,' he said. Many of the seized notes were contaminated by cocaine, another factor the judge took into account, although he accepted that a large number of notes in general circulation bore traces of illicit drugs. The ruling comes at a time of concern over claims that Hong Kong has become the money-laundering capital of the world. After the hearing, Michael Blanchflower, representing the Commissioner of Police, said the decision showed that the change to the law in 1995 was very important in helping to win the war against dealers in dirty money. 'It is one more tool to deprive criminals and money-launderers of their drug-trafficking proceeds,' Mr Blanchflower said. 'At the present time this power is limited to cash connected with drug trafficking.' Mr Lin had claimed that C$100,000 of the cash was his own and that the rest had been borrowed from his sister. He said it was intended to be given to his father on the mainland. He had also brought about C$500,000 to Hong Kong the previous July. Mr Lin said this was also meant for his father, but he had gambled most of it away in Macau. The judge rejected his evidence and said it amounted to a fabrication to hide the true source of the money. Mr Lin, who was employed by computer companies in Canada, had only been earning a modest income and would not have been able to save the sort of sums he had brought to Hong Kong, he said. The money seized from Mr Lin weighed 15.5kg and included 14,000 C$20 notes. Documentary evidence had been provided by about 20 witnesses from Vancouver and Toronto. There were three volumes of evidence totalling about 400 pages.