Hong Kong customs seizes $98M worth of cocaine

Head of Customs Drug Investigation Bureau John Lee displays the cubes of cocaine at the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department in Hong Kong Friday, July 6, 2012. AP Photo/Kin Cheung

(AP) HONG KONG - Hong Kong customs officers announced Friday that they have made the city's biggest ever cocaine bust, seizing 649 kilograms (1,430 pounds) of the drug worth 76 million Hong Kong dollars ($98 million).

The drugs were in a shipping container that arrived at Hong Kong's port from Ecuador, said John Lee, head of the Customs Drug Investigation Bureau. He said he believed most of the shipment was destined for Southeast Asia or mainland China.

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The container was one of a batch that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had flagged to Hong Kong officials for further inspection. Customs officers discovered the drugs after they followed the shipment when it was driven Wednesday from the port to a collection point in Hong Kong's rural New Territories, where it was picked up by two men that authorities believe are members of a local drug syndicate.

When they inspected the shipment, officers found 541 bricks of cocaine, each weighing about 1.2 kilograms, hidden in a shipment of laurel wood.

The driver and the two men were arrested.

Lee said Hong Kong's customs department has been working with the DEA and South American law enforcement agencies this year to combat drug trafficking.

The seizure tops a haul last year of 560 kilograms of cocaine worth about $77 million found in a suburban warehouse. Five Mexicans and a Colombian were among the eight people arrested in that case.

On Tuesday, customs officers arrested a man arriving at the airport from Sao Paulo, Brazil, after they discovered 1.9 kilograms of cocaine hidden in specially made underwear and shoes he was wearing.

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