Ringleaders of billion-dollar transpacific cocaine gang held in mainland China
Two new arrests bring number of Hongkongers detained in connection with biggest cocaine haul since the establishment of the people’s republic to nine
Two Hongkongers thought to be the leaders of a transpacific drug trafficking ring linked to the biggest cocaine seizure in recent Chinese history were sent back to the mainland after Interpol helped catch them overseas, authorities said on Tuesday.
A total of nine city residents were arrested in the eight months to March for transporting 1.3 tonnes of cocaine – worth more than 1 billion yuan (HK$1.2 billion) – from South America to Shanwei, a coastal city in southern in Guangdong province, by sea. The gang, allegedly led by two Hongkongers surnamed Chan and Cheng, shifted the haul by road to other parts of the province for storage.
Police said it was the largest cocaine seizure since the establishment of the people’s republic, in 1949.
The Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department said officers swooped on the suspects in two separate operations, one last August and one in February, after learning the syndicate would be involved in a major handover.
“After the ring was cracked in late February, the masterminds, Chan and Cheng, fled and hid overseas,” the department said in a statement, adding that it then asked Interpol for help.
“The pair was captured separately abroad on March 7 and March 22 and sent back to the country. We have cracked the syndicate and arrested all members involved.”
The department did not say which country the suspects were picked up in, or how many others from mainland China had been involved.
A Hong Kong government source said local agencies had been aware of the round-up since last year and given basic information on the suspects to their mainland counterparts. He said it made sense for the ringleaders to be sent back to mainland China, even though they were Hong Kong residents.
“It depends in which country the crime allegedly took place,” the source said. “If the country is a member of Interpol and seeks help from the organisation to issue a red notice [to catch a Hongkonger], the Hongkonger will be sent back to that country upon arrest in the third place.”
The capture of Chan and Cheng brought the number of Hongkongers held in connection with the syndicate to nine. In August, mainland Chinese police arrested three members of the Hong Kong group in Shenzhen and seized a car suspected of being used to move drugs.
In February, officers raided a unit in Guangzhou to find 1.29 tonnes of cocaine, to add to 40kg of the gang’s cocaine discovered earlier at a suspected processing hub in Dongguan. That led to the arrests of two more Hong Kong residents.
The two other Hongkongers were caught in the same month.