Oz seeks to get hands on 'drug boss El Chapo of Asia' after Dutch arrest

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 25 Jan 2021

The alleged ringleader of Asia's biggest crime syndicate and one of the world's most wanted men has been arrested in the Netherlands, with Australian authorities pushing for his extradition to face trial.

Police have been chasing alleged drug kingpin Tse Chi Lop, 57, for years until his arrest by Dutch police on Friday acting on a request from Australia.

Australian authorities said yesterday that Tse Chi Lop - who is "of significant interest" to law enforcement agencies - had been detained.

The China-born Canadian citizen has been compared to Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

He has been named by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as suspected leader of the cartel known as Sam Gor, a major producer and supplier of methamphetamines globally.

Sam Gor is believed to launder its billions of dollars in drug money through businesses in Southeast Asia's Mekong region - including casinos, hotels and real estate.

His arrest followed an operation that in 2012-2013 nabbed 27 people linked to a syndicate spanning five countries.

The group was accused of taking "substantial quantities of heroin and methamphetamine" into Australia.

"The syndicate targeted Australia over a number of years, importing and distributing large amounts of illicit narcotics, laundering the profits overseas and living off the wealth obtained from crime," Australian police said.

As part of those raids across Melbourne, police seized A$9 million (HK$53.84 million) worth of assets, including cash, designer handbags, casino chips and jewelry.

The arrest of Tse almost a decade later is a major breakthrough for Australian authorities.

Most of Asia's meth comes from the Golden Triangle area between Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and southwest China. They pump unprecedented quantities of synthetic drugs into global markets.

A UN study says Southeast Asia's crime groups are netting more than US$60 billion (HK$468 billion) a year.

The production of meth - either in tablet "yaba" form or the highly potent crystallized "ice" version - as well as ketamine and fentanyl, takes place primarily in Myanmar's Shan state. But much of the precursor chemicals needed to cook them flows from China.

Thailand in 2018 netted more than 515 million yaba tablets, 17 times the amount for the entire Mekong region a decade ago. Drug hauls feature near daily in headlines across the region, with traffickers finding creative ways to ship their illicit products.



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