Hong Kong customs seize HK$80 million stash of drugs stored in upscale flat

Hong Kong man, 52, guarding 79kg of suspected cocaine and about 1kg of ‘Ice’ was arrested in operation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 July, 2018, 3:59pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 July, 2018, 9:02pm

Hong Kong customs officers shut down a narcotics storehouse at a discrete, upscale Tuen Mun private housing estate on Saturday, seizing an HK$80 million (US$10.2 million) stash of illegal drugs and making one arrest.

A total of 79kg of suspected cocaine and about 1kg of suspected methamphetamine – or “Ice” – was seized from the 400 sq ft, two-bedroom flat in the agency’s biggest cocaine raid in five years.

A 52-year-old Hong Kong man who was a core member of a local drug ring and in charge of guarding the cache, was arrested during the morning raid following a week-long operation, customs said, adding that the ringleaders behind the drugs operation were still at large.

“In terms of quantity, this case was customs’ largest cocaine seizure since 2013,” Lee Hoi-man, acting group head of the Customs Drug Investigation Bureau, said on Sunday.

“We will continue to investigate the source of the narcotics, the smuggling method used, the local distribution network in place and whether there are other suspected persons involved. We do not rule out the possibility of more arrests.”

Lee said the flat – valued at HK$8 million to HK$10 million – in the gated, medium-density private residential complex, which was not named, had been rented out by the syndicate for only a month and was chosen for its relative seclusion, unassuming nature and good security.

Hong Kong customs smash drug ring, seize HK$32m of cocaine

The 74 bricks of cocaine were stored in plastic crates and stashed in the bedrooms.

The bureau believed the drugs were stockpiled over the month and due to be released into the market to meet the peak summer demand, Lee said.

The storehouse was so new it was furnished with just a few chairs and a bed. The equipment for drug packaging had not been used, suggesting that the operation was not yet ready for processing or distribution.

“In a short period of time, we were able to locate and smash the operation of this large drug storage centre … and stop the narcotics from hitting the market,” drug investigation divisional commander Lee Ka-ming said.

The commander said there was a growing trend of drug syndicates moving operations into higher-end residential properties to evade detection and that it was not an isolated case. The operators in this case were alert, sophisticated and adept with countersurveillance techniques, he added. One example given was that they appeared at the storehouse at irregular hours. “This posed a challenge to our investigation.”

Customs seize HK$7 million shipment of smuggled wood from Malaysia

In March, customs officers raided luxury flats at Tuen Mun’s upscale Gold Coast neighbourhood, seizing large quantities of drugs and making several arrests. One of the flats had been converted into a drug processing plant.

And in November last year, police broke up a crack cocaine factory in a 1,000 sq ft luxury flat in Yuen Long.

Last year, out of a total of 1,158kg of drugs seized by customs, 145kg involved cocaine, a 41 per cent drop from 2016. Police, meanwhile, seized 402kg of cocaine, about 15 per cent less than in 2016.