A drug cartel described by local law enforcement as the ‘most notorious’ in Mexico is reportedly expanding operations into Hong Kong to take advantage of its ‘booming demand’ for cocaine and methamphetamine, South China Morning Post reports.
Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, already a main supplier of narcotics to several Western countries, is considered to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and dangerous drug-trafficking groups.
News of the operation expansion into Hong Kong comes nearly a month after the Post revealed that Hong Kong triad gangs have been supplying the cartel with chemicals such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, both used in the production of methamphetamine, or “Ice”.
Last week, the Customs and Excise Department announced it would be creating a specialized team to crack down on the drug-trafficking syndicate.
The news follows a 2012 study from US Defense Department’s Prism Journal, describing Sinaloa’s increasing expansion across Asia and its attempts to infiltrate Hong Kong’s market.
According to the Post:
Hong Kong’s triads have long been key players in the Philippine drug trade and police there now fear an “unholy alliance” between the Mexican and Chinese drug syndicates.
“We have to move fast to nip this partnership in the bud,” said Senior Superintendent Bartolome Tobias, head of the Philippine National Police anti-illegal- drugs task force.
In Hong Kong, five Mexicans were sentenced last year to up to 27 years in prison for smuggling 538kg of cocaine into the city in 2011.
Police and customs officials have declined to say whether the five were Sinaloa traffickers and Mexican consul-general Alicia Buenrostro Massieu said “respect for due process” meant she could not say.
However, the ringleader of the group came from Sinaloa territory and operated out of a Mexican port controlled by the cartel.
Hong Kong Customs seized around 600kg of cocaine in 2012, an increase of 2,000 percent from the previous year’s 30kg.
Experts noted that since the market has opened up, drug prices have come down (one gram of cocaine in Hong Kong costs around HK$1,200) and is much more accessible than it was 20 years ago.
Last year, it was reported that meth was replacing heroin as the drug of choice for addicts across China, and a total of 227 million methamphetamine pills were seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2012, seven times more than in 2008. A huge operation was smashed just last month in Guangdong province’s Boshe village, also known as “Guangdong’s Number One Drug Village“.
Authorities in Hong Kong alone seized 165kg of the substance last year, up 125 percent from seizures in 2012.
“Ice” captured in Hong Kong and mainland China is considered to be of higher quality than that in the rest of Asia, and experts have attributed this to a prevalence of skilled chemists in China’s drug scene.
“It’s really a perfect storm for meth use in Asia,” UNODC’s Jeremy Douglas said to the Post. “Asia has the raw materials, the market demand and the organized crime.”
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