image

Drugs

Hong Kong’s problem with date rape drug GBL sent by mail from Lithuania

Some 131kg of GBL, a clear and odourless industrial solvent, seized in the first four months this year – more than for all of 2017

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 May, 2018, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 May, 2018, 10:32am

A greater amount of a date rape drug was seized in Hong Kong in the first four months of this year than in the whole of 2017, customs figures show, with the chemical also finding its way to the city centre when previously it was mostly discovered in transshipment parcels.

A senior customs source said recent seizures of gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL) involved parcels from Lithuania, where the industrial solvent is legal, leading the authorities to believe drug traffickers were taking advantage of differences between the two jurisdictions to smuggle it into Hong Kong.

In all, 131kg of GBL, a clear and odourless industrial cleaner often used as a date rape drug, was seized in the first four months of the year.

In comparison customs confiscated 124kg of the chemical, with a street value of nearly HK$4 million (US$512,820), last year. The amount seized was 66 per cent less than in 2016. There were no seizures in the first four months last year.

GBL, a psychoactive substance, is a popular party drug. Users experience feelings of euphoria and reduced inhibitions. Stronger doses can cause sleepiness, confusion and dizziness.

Warning bells sounded after a local male model and an Australian man were arrested earlier this month at a flat in Central, where customs officers seized 13 litres of GBL. The drug was believed to be intended for use in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district.

The arrests were prompted by the discovery at Hong Kong International Airport’s cargo terminal of 10 litres of GBL, with a street value of HK$200,000, in a parcel sent from Lithuania.

Male model and Australian man arrested as customs seize date rape drug GBL

Customs officers posed as couriers two days later and carried out a controlled delivery of the parcel to a flat on Peel Street in Central, where the two men were arrested and another 3 litres of GBL were found.

The building was about 500 metres from Lan Kwai Fong.

“We recently noticed some date rape drug in parcels arriving from Lithuania destined for Hong Kong. The parcels stated boldly that the contents were chemicals for industrial use, the customs source said. “The liquid is commonly used as an industrial cleaner in some countries and is perfectly legal. It is widely available on the internet.”

However, GBL seized in Hong Kong was mainly found in transshipment packages meant for overseas destinations, the insider stressed.

GBL is listed as a controlled drug in countries including the United States, Canada and Sweden. In other places, such as Poland and Russia, a licence is needed to sell it.

Hong Kong listed the liquid as a dangerous drug in 2012, meaning trafficking GBL to Hong Kong carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a HK$5 million fine.

Alarm over young Hongkongers’ easy access to Ice, ketamine and marijuana

One online shop based in Lithuania said on its website that GBL could be used as a solvent to remove paint, oil, ink and graffiti. A 350ml bottle costs as little as 16.49 euros (US$19.20).

“We send orders through DHL across the entire world,” it said.

In late April, a 25-litre bottle of GBL was found in a parcel from Lithuania when customs conducted a check on an express parcel company in Cheung Sha Wan. On the same day officers arrested two men in an industrial unit in Kowloon Bay, where one more litre of GBL was seized.

Hong Kong customs sees drug smuggling by mail up fourfold

Customs had all along adopted an intelligence-led and risk management approach to tackle the sources of drug supply to Hong Kong or elsewhere via the city, a spokesman said.

Police did not seize any of the date rape drug in 2017 and early 2018.

The Security Bureau’s Narcotics Division said on its website that GBL can cause drowsiness even at low doses and may lead to unconsciousness or even death at high amounts.

“This clear, odourless liquid is often used as a date rape drug and is added to flavoured drinks to mask its salty taste,” it stated. “It can be put into a person’s drink when they are not aware, making them vulnerable to sexual assault or rape.”