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Crime in Hong Kong

Cocaine worth HK$14 million found in noodle-making machines as South American and European arrested in Hong Kong raids

Some 14kg of the drug is confiscated in two separate busts, bringing total haul from four raids this month to 70kg – the biggest amount so far this year from a single operation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 10:46pm

Two men from South America and Europe believed to be the masterminds of a global drug syndicate were arrested on Monday at luxury properties in Hong Kong’s upscale Gold Coast neighbourhood.

Customs officers involved in raiding three flats discovered sachets of cocaine concealed in the metal shafts of noodle-making machines shipped from South America via mainland China. Similar discoveries had been made in previous raids in recent weeks.

The drug bust, together with another on Friday in To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, netted a total of 14kg of cocaine worth HK$14 million (US$1.78 million). Since the beginning of March, 70kg have been seized in related raids across the city – the largest amount so far this year from a single operation.

Monday’s raid at Gold Coast, a low-density residential neighbourhood near Tuen Mun in northwest Hong Kong, provided a rare glimpse into the delicate operation against the drug trafficking ring.

Inspector John Yip Lap-man from the Customs Drug Investigation Bureau revealed that one of the flats had been converted into a drug processing plant – more often found in industrial buildings. He said moving the operation to residential units was a tactic to evade detection.

Soundproof materials lined the walls of one of the properties, Yip added, to muffle the noise of the heavy machinery, which was found together with 2kg of cocaine and HK$110,000 in cash.

After HK$56m cocaine haul in noodle machines, city seeks help

Two men, a Colombian aged 29 and a Colombian-born Spaniard aged 38, were arrested with passports and luggage in tow. Yip said the pair were believed to be the masterminds of the syndicate and were planning to flee. The first was apprehended outside Avignon housing estate off Kwun Chui Road at about 3pm.

Officers seized a small quantity of drugs from a flat inside Avignon, along with a rental invoice leading to another property later found kitted out with soundproof materials in one of its three bedrooms. They believed the room was used to open the noodle machines with metal-cutting equipment, a process that took customs officers four hours after a previous bust.

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

Another property, a duplex apartment at Gold Coast housing estate, was raided at the same time, netting the Spaniard. Inside his flat, officers seized HK$110,000 along with a small quantity of drugs.

By lunchtime on Tuesday, the pair were still being held for questioning and had not been charged. 

Yip said the arrests had led to the dismantling of an international drug trafficking ring, and additional busts were likely.

Friday’s raid at a factory unit in To Kwa Wan saw the seizure of another noodle machine, inside which two metal shafts were used to conceal packets of cocaine weighing 12kg.

The machine was the same model as those confiscated in two previous raids this month that netted HK$56 million worth of cocaine. The Post earlier learned the devices were delivered by plane to the mainland from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, before being smuggled into Hong Kong.