Hong Kong customs agents have discovered a new trend in drug smuggling that cocaine runners have been practicing to avoid detection. This scheme involves so-called “second-leg” drug mules. These mules are recruited to pick up cocaine packs from South American “cocaine swallowers” in the Middle East, and completing the delivery in Hong Kong.
Such handovers of drugs are understood to have taken place in airport hotels in cities like Dubai. Pellets of cocaine are discharged in a hotel room and then concealed in boxes of chocolates, candies or biscuits.
Trafficking syndicates then arrange the second-leg couriers, recruited from Africa, Europe and Asia, to smuggle the drugs into destinations such as Hong Kong and Macau. Each second-leg courier is paid between US$2,000 and US$3,000, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.
This tactic is used to throw investigators , who attempt to track the packs from South America, off the scent. Between late December and March 11, 12 people ave been arrested and 30 kilos of coke have been seized, at Hong Kong International Airport. In attempts to learn more, Chinese authorities will be attending the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Lima, Peru, later this month, to glean knowledge from their peers in South America. They will also meet with Middle Eastern authorities.
“To tackle the recent cocaine smuggling trend, the Customs and Excise Department is planning a duty visit to the Middle East in the coming months to have face-to-face liaison with the relevant law enforcement agencies and to establish direct contact point to effective further co-operation,” said an agency spokesman. “This will help us obtain up-to-date intelligence on smuggling trends and trafficking routes so that we can take appropriate action.”
In Hong Kong, seizures of 93 kilos of coke in the first three months of the year marks a 116% increase from last year, when 43.1 kilos were seized. Last year, the 341 kilos seized indicated a 162% rise from the 130 kilos seized in 2014. This is likely due to the rise of the amount of cocaine being shipped out.