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Drugs

Cocaine seizures double at Hong Kong International Airport as dealers try to quench Christmas demand in city

  • More than HK$35 million worth of the drug was confiscated between October 1 and December 14
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 December, 2018, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 December, 2018, 11:11pm

Drug syndicates have tried to smuggle more than HK$35 million (US$4.55 million) worth of cocaine through Hong Kong airport since October as dealers step up operations to satisfy demand over the Christmas period.

The amount was almost double the supply seized at Hong Kong International Airport in the first nine months of the year.

Official figures obtained by the Post show customs officers confiscated at least 34.2kg of cocaine between October 1 and December 14, of which 16.8kg was trafficked by passengers and 17.4kg as cargo.

The figures were a marked increase on the 8.5kg and 11.7kg smuggled between January and September, which was worth a total of HK$21 million.

A senior customs source said traffickers were in a rush to sneak narcotics into the city to meet rising demand over the festive season. Smugglers had been less active in the first half of the year due to more stringent law enforcement, the insider said.

A larger number of syndicates were willing to take greater risks by paying passengers to traffic drugs in person to avoid the peak season for mail ahead of Christmas, the source added.

“The sharp increase is indeed very seasonal. The crime rings thought more cocaine could be smuggled in one go and faster. Parcels might not arrive on time as postal services could be delayed,” the investigator said.

A portion of the drugs had been headed for Macau.

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“There could be more cases to come this month,” the source said.

The street value of one kilogram of cocaine hovers at around HK$1.04 million in Hong Kong.

In October and November, seven passengers and two other suspects were arrested over suspected cocaine parcels.

A 64-year-old male passenger arriving in Hong Kong from Belgium on Friday was arrested after HK$1.1 million of suspected cocaine was found in a hidden compartment inside a cover for his tablet computer.

The Post understands he boarded a flight in South Africa and flew to Hong Kong via Dubai and Brussels.

The source said many smugglers used to fly into Hong Kong via Saudi Arabia, but now more often came through Africa and Europe, hoping to disguise their origin, commonly South America.

On Monday customs officers found about HK$2.5 million worth of suspected cocaine in a parcel arriving from Brazil. The 2.2kg was concealed in four cans of powered milk formula and coffee powder. A 20-year-old man believed to be the recipient was arrested in Tsz Wan Shan.

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“Apart from strengthening our deployment of officers and implementing stringent enforcement action during the festive season, customs will be equally vigilant through risk assessment and intelligence analysis,” a spokesman for the Customs and Excise Department said.

Seizures of methamphetamine and heroin have also increased. Customs officers netted 55.9kg of “Ice” in October and November, almost as much as the 62.7kg confiscated in the first nine months of 2018.

Authorities have also seized 6.9kg of heroin in the past two months, compared to 18.8kg between January and September.