Mon, Apr 08, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Coast guard, police seize Chinese contraband

SURVEILLANCE KEY:The criminal ring allegedly planned to smuggle ketamine in a fishing vessel to try to make huge profits at the Spring Scream music festival

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Bags of ketamine confiscated by the Coast Guard Administration are on display in Kaohsiung yesterday.

Photo: Hung Ting-hung, Taipei Times

The boarding of a fishing vessel suspected of transporting contraband turned into the largest marine seizure of illegal drugs so far this year, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) has announced.

Labels on the packages containing 320kg of ketamine, shipped as tea leaves, had simplified Chinese characters, so the cargo is suspected to have originated in China, CGA Investigation Branch deputy chief Ruan Wen-chieh (阮文杰) said.

The boarding was conducted on Thursday last week at the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), about 200 nautical miles (370km) southwest of Kaohsiung Port, Ruan added.

Test results showed that the packages contained ketamine with an estimated street value of about NT$320 million (US$10.38 million), he said.

“Surveillance indicated that a criminal ring had plans to smuggle ketamine in a fishing vessel to try to make huge profits by selling ketamine pills to revellers at the Spring Scream music festival,” Ruan said.

The three-day music festival is to take place at the seaside park in Kaohsiung’s Cijin District (旗津) from May 3 to 5.

The 50-tonne Lai Shun Yi 333 fishing vessel was headed to rendezvous with a Chinese ship near the Pratas Islands, where the packages were loaded, as a 100-tonne CGA patrol cutter arrived in the area, and boarded and examined its cargo, he said.

Ruan quoted the fishing vessel’s captain, a 44-year-old man surnamed Hsu (許), as saying that someone had contacted him to transport cargo to Kaohsiung Port, and that he agreed to do so for payment of NT$6 million.

Hsu and a crew member surnamed Chou (周) face charges of breaching the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例), although the investigation is ongoing to name other members of the alleged smuggling ring.

In related news, the Investigation Branch in Yilan County said they uncovered illegal Chinese cigarettes in eight containers at Keelung Port.

Saturday’s raid, conducted by the CGA and local police units, found about 3,600 boxes of cigarettes in the seized containers, CGA Investigation Branch deputy captain Lee Chin-an (李進安) said.

The cigarettes had an estimated street value of NT$210 million, he added.

Suspects apprehended in the case face charges of breaching the Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act (菸酒管理法), Lee said.

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