HONG KONG: Six members of a sightseeing group from Malaysia have been arrested by customs officers at Hong Kong International Airport for attempting to carry nearly HK$4mil (RM2mil) worth of ketamine into the city – the first such arrests in a decade.
The Post understands that the previous capture of Malaysians for drug trafficking at the airport was made about 10 years ago.
The six male Malaysian travellers aged between 18 and 28 were intercepted for inspection at the airport’s customs clearance counter following their arrival from Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
“More than 8kg of suspected ketamine was found strapped to the bodies of four of the six men,” a source with the knowledge of the case said.
“The haul had an estimated street value of HK$3.9mil.”
He said an initial investigation showed the consignment was for local consumption.
When asked why they joined a tour group, he said it was possible drug dealers believed members of a tour group would have received less scrutiny at a control point on entering the city.
As most of ketamine seized in Hong Kong was smuggled from the mainland, another source said it was an unusual drug-smuggling route.
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“We believe a massive crackdown against underground drug manufacturing plants on the mainland led drug dealers to find new source of the drug and use new smuggling routing into Hong Kong,” the source said.
He said officers were investigating whether the consignment was smuggled into Malaysia before being brought to Hong Kong and how the six young suspects were recruited.
On Thursday afternoon, the six Malaysian men were being held for questioning and had not been charged.
In Hong Kong, trafficking in a dangerous drug carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a HK$5mil (RM2.6mil) fine under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance.
Latest figures show local authorities seized 110kg in the first 10 months of this year, down 62.5% compared with 293 in the same period last year.
Separately, Hong Kong Customs said more than five tonnes of stimulant Khat leaves with an estimated street value of HK$31mil (RM16mil) were seized between January and November this year.
This year’s seizure is about five times as large as the seizures made in the whole of last year.
It is understood most Khat leaves were smuggled into Hong Kong from Africa before being airmailed to the United States, Canada and Europe.
Khat leaves contain traces of cathinone and cathine, which are both controlled under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong Customs has all along been working closely with the logistics industry, and will continue to take stringent enforcement actions as well as strengthen cooperation with law enforcement agencies outside Hong Kong in combating transnational drug trafficking activities,” a spokesman for the Customs and Excise Department said.
–This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition.