$11m cannabis smuggler jailed for 101/2 years

A DECORATOR caught smuggling cannabis worth more than $11 million into Hong Kong was yesterday jailed for 101/2 years.

Tang Wing-kau, 34, was arrested by Narcotics Bureau officers who swooped after spotting a boat sailing towards Po Chong Wan, near Aberdeen, shortly after midnight on July 19, 1992.

After it reached the shore, two men were seen transferring bags on to a nearby truck, the High Court heard. Police followed the lorry, which stopped at a loading bay at the Marina Club, Aberdeen.

A search of the truck uncovered 724 kilograms of herbal cannabis concealed in striped ''amah bags''.

Tang, who had $10,000 on him, and another man Wong Kam-chan, 30, were stopped as they walked towards the car park.

Passing sentence, Deputy Judge Jones said: ''The amount of drugs involved is enormous. Its value was estimated to be in excess of $11 million at the time.'' The judge accepted Tang was not a ''prime mover'' in the plot, but said he had played an integral role.

''A prime mover would not have been walking away from the scene in the early hours of the morning with a few thousand dollars in his pocket,'' the judge said.

''The prime mover would not even have been doing the labouring work in such a large consignment. Nonetheless, subordinate staff in the drugs business must also be deterred, as without them the larger operators could not manage.'' During the trial, prosecutor Peter Chapman said a policeman watching through binoculars on the sixth floor of Nam Long Hospital, Aberdeen, had spotted the boat. The vessel's rear light was turned off when it docked.

Tang, who denied one charge of trafficking, claimed he did not know what was in the bags.

His defence counsel, Michael Delaney, told the judge yesterday: ''He was simply a link in the business. His role was not that of the mastermind. His main role was to be a labourer.'' Mr Wong, a waiter, was acquitted of trafficking in a separate trial, after he said he had been told the bags were packed with cigarettes.

The driver of the truck, Man Yue-tao, has already been jailed for eight years after admitting his involvement in the plot.

Man's cousin, Man Sai-sing, a security guard at the Marina Club, who was given immunity from prosecution, told the jury in Mr Wong's trial that he had allowed his cousin and his friends to use the car park.