Japanese authorities have seized HK$4.3 billion (US$550 million) worth of crystal meth and arrested seven suspected drug traffickers, including at least one Hongkonger, in the country’s largest ever drugs bust. The seven suspects, all Chinese men aged between 20 and 49, were taken into custody in Minamiizu, Shizuoka prefecture, in a joint operation between the Japan Coast Guard and the Metropolitan Police Department earlier this week. Law enforcement sources said at least one Hongkonger was involved and Japanese authorities had notified the city’s related departments over the arrest. According to Japanese officials, officers seized one tonne of the drug, also known as Ice, on board a boat at a beach in the area on Monday night. Two of the suspects were caught unloading the drugs from the vessel, while the other five were arrested on Tuesday. Police believe the consignment could have been transferred to the boat from another vessel while at sea. The drugs had an estimated street value of 60 billion yen in Japan, and weighed only slightly less than the 1.13 tonnes of Ice seized across the country in the whole of last year. Japan’s previous biggest haul of the drug was 597kg, which was found on a boat anchored at a port in Okinawa in 2016. One law enforcement source said Hong Kong officials were told about the arrest on Wednesday, and authorities did not believe the drugs came from the city. But the source said officials were waiting for more information from their Japanese counterparts. Revealed: how Hong Kong became the crystal meth corridor “The retail price of the drug is about HK$550,000 per kilogram on the underground market in Hong Kong, but its value could increase by nine times to HK$4.5 million per kilogram in Japan,” the source said. The Post reported last year that a massive crackdown on crystal meth factories in Guangdong province had forced Hong Kong drug dealers to find new suppliers. Another source said there was an increasing amount of Ice concealed in parcels and airmailed into the city from Africa, Mexico and other Asian countries. The new trend has led customs officers to step up their inspection of inbound parcels, and boost intelligence exchange and cooperation with their overseas counterparts. According to official statistics, customs and police seized 359kg of crystal meth in 2018, up 149 per cent compared with 144kg in 2017.