Chinese woman found not guilty of drug trafficking by Hong Kong court after three years of uncertainty

Li Dandan pulled her mother in a tight embrace as soon as she emerged from a Hong Kong court’s cell holding unit, free at last from a drug trafficking case hanging over her head for nearly three years.

Beside them stood prison chaplain Father John Wotherspoon, who had waited anxiously for Li’s release, having spent the past two years helping the Guangzhou native prove her innocence.

“I’m very happy,” he said tearfully after learning of Li’s acquittal. “I’m hoping her case can help the [other drug mules] appeal.”

Wotherspoon since 2013 has been working on a “name and shame” project, identifying and exposing drug lords operating through and in the city. His efforts came as he travelled the world to help drug mules facing trial.

The Roman Catholic priest claimed about 20 mainland women had fallen victim to African drug lords over the past decade – and Li was one of them.

On November 7, 2015, Li was intercepted at Hong Kong International Airport while en route to Malaysia to help deliver clothing samples for her Nigerian boyfriend, IK, who said he would set up business in her home province of Guangdong.

In a backpack she carried were 1,983 grams of crystalline solids stored in a hidden compartment sewn into its linings.

Hong Kong prosecutors said the single mother, now 33, had trafficked 1,934 grams of methamphetamine, a drug more commonly known as Ice, worth HK$580,000.

But Li told a different story: of a love scam in which she was conned into making deliveries for a man she trusted.

“I dated this Nigerian man because he did not smoke or drink. He struck me as a hardworking person,” she wrote in a letter to Wotherspoon in July 2016. “I could not believe he was a drug trafficker.”

She thought he was a real boyfriend.

Wotherspoon said Li was highly vulnerable in light of her divorce.

Source: South China Morning Post

Hong Kong’s young smugglers told: get caught and your age won’t save you from decades in jail

Hong Kong’s young adults have been told age and a clean record will not save them from a lengthy jail sentence if they are caught smuggling drugs or other contraband into the city.

The warning came from Ida Ng Kit-ching, the head of the Rail and Ferry Command at Customs & Excise Department, as she revealed 92 young offenders had been arrested in the first five months of this year, a rise of 46 percent on 2017.

Ng said the case of a 20-year-old, who was sentenced to 22½ years in prison for trafficking 5kg of ketamine, should prove a salutary lesson for others tempted to follow in his footsteps – especially as he was paid just HK$500 to do so.

Source: SCMP

It’s your choice, think twice

It’s been almost one year since my arrest and detention on trafficking charges of 1 kilo of high purity cocaine.

As everybody knows, I was not the owner of that drug. I was recruited as a courier to carry it overseas with the promise of a monetary reward for a better life for my family. Although it is not an excuse, everybody also knows that we agree to break the law just for our family.

Continue reading It’s your choice, think twice

WIN a vacation package to Stanley (Prison)

I am Brazilian, and this is my sad story.

Due to my financial situation and the huge responsibility on my shoulders (five children and four wives) I was approached by a man. He introduced me to several others, and they told me many things like they were selling a vacation package. They assured me that the risks were very low and promised that even if caught the punishment was small.

Continue reading WIN a vacation package to Stanley (Prison)

Hong Kong dishes out severe punishment for drug mules while gang leaders remain free

Low-level drug mules are convicted at a rate of more than one a day in Hong Kong’s High Court while only one gang organiser or senior syndicate member is sentenced every eight months, a study provided to Post Magazine shows.

An analysis by former deputy director of public prosecutions John Reading SC found that of 1,619 traffickers convicted from 2012 to 2015, only six were organisers or senior gang members, while 1,519 (or 93 percent) were couriers, apprehended either in Hong Kong or while trying to enter or leave the city. The remaining 94 cases mostly involved so-called storekeepers caught with drugs in Hong Kong.

Reading’s study also found that sentences for drug-trafficking offences were more severe in Hong Kong than in the 17 other jurisdictions surveyed, with a 22-year starting point for trafficking offences involving 1kg of a class-A drug compared with 20 years in Turkey, 15 to 20 years in Slovakia and 10 to 17 years in New York.

Hong Kong was the only jurisdiction surveyed, apart from Iceland and Austria, not to consider the role and seniority of the offender in the sentencing process. Hong Kong was also one of only six jurisdictions where previous good character was not recognised as a mitigating factor.

The average sentence over the four-year period in Hong Kong was nine years and nine months, while the highest sentences given out were to a 37-year-old sentenced to 32 years for trafficking 33.6kg of cocaine, and a 45-year-old sentenced to 33 years and six months for trafficking 11.9kg of cocaine and 410 grams of crystal methamphetamine.

Because 16-year-olds are tried in adult courts in Hong Kong, prosecutions over that period included 82 minors. All but two received substantial jail terms and cases included a 16-year-old sentenced to 17 years for trafficking 1.9kg of ketamine.

“The heavy sentences imposed for the offence in Hong Kong have not resulted in a significant reduction in drug trafficking cases over those years,” Reading concluded.

Source: The Star, SCMP

Woman from Peru arrested at Hong Kong airport carrying 2.5kg of cocaine in her body

A 52-year-old woman from Peru arrested at Hong Kong International Airport on Saturday was carrying 2.5 kilograms of suspected cocaine in her body.

The woman arrived in Hong Kong via The Netherlands but was arrested during customs clearance after officials became suspicious because the woman walked slowly and awkwardly, Sing Tao Daily reported.

The woman ejected packets of suspected cocaine from her body during a check. The officers immediately sent her to North Lantau Hospital, where she discharged a total of 180 condoms with suspected liquid cocaine over two days.

The seized cocaine weighed about 2.5 kilograms in total and had an estimated street value of HK$2.3 million (US$294,462).

Officers said it was the biggest case of ingested drug trafficking caught by customs this year.

19 year old Ethiopian woman arrested with $2.4 million-value cocaine

Hong Kong Customs yesterday seized about 2.6 kilograms of suspected cocaine with an estimated market value of about $2.4 million at Hong Kong International Airport.

A female passenger arrived in Hong Kong from Ethiopia yesterday afternoon. Upon examination of her hand-carry rucksack, Customs officers found the batch of suspected cocaine inside the false compartment of the rucksack. She was then arrested.

The arrested woman, aged 19, has been charged with one count of trafficking in a dangerous drug. She will appear at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts tomorrow.

Source: HK Customs and Excise Department

Four arrested as Hong Kong police smash crack cocaine lab in largest seizure of raw drug materials in 10 years

Hong Kong police have broken up a crack cocaine factory at a luxury flat in Yuen Long, seizing the largest haul of raw drug materials in 10 years and arresting four men, one of them Peruvian.

The ingredients – thought to have been flown into the city from Peru – could have made batches of the drug worth HK$59 million, officers said on Sunday.

The police operation, in Hung Shui Kiu on Friday, led to the seizure of 10kg of suspected crack cocaine and 150kg of materials to make the drug. The raw materials could have made another 50kg of drugs, the police said.

Four men aged between 19 and 38 were arrested. They included a Peruvian national who arrived in Hong Kong two weeks ago on a tourist visa, and is suspected to be the group leader. Officers said he was sent to the city to be the chemist for the operation.

The suspects were charged with manufacturing dangerous drugs and will appear at Tuen Mun Court on Monday. The maximum penalty for drug manufacturing is life imprisonment.

The syndicate rented a 1,000 sq ft luxury flat one month ago and tried to cover the smells emanating from their factory with fragrant oils.

According to police, drug cartels in Peru sent the raw materials by air cargo in 10 boxes. Customs officers did not detect the material because it was mixed with “acidic-smelling powders”.

Police said they believed it was the first time a luxury flat had been used as a base for making drugs.

“One of the reasons the syndicate chose to rent rather luxurious premises was that it provided a front to make it less suspicious and more difficult for us to detect [the factory],” Chief Superintendent Ma Ping-yiu, of the Narcotics Bureau, said.

Police also seized drug-making materials such as small stoves, flammable chemicals and other tools.

Source: SCMP

Tough justice: Colombian jailed for 16 years for bringing cocaine to Hong Kong to repay debts for his sister’s medicine

A Colombian drug mule who admitted trafficking more than HK$2.7 million worth of cocaine into Hong Kong to repay debts for his sister’s medicine was jailed for 16 years and eight months by a High Court judge on Friday.

Cesar Sanchez, 21, did not initially react to the sentence on one count of trafficking a dangerous drug. But he broke down in tears as his lawyers gathered around the dock to explain the sentence after the hearing.

The former butcher was convicted after stating through an interpreter: “I declare myself guilty.”

Sanchez was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport on October 26 last year after officers found five packets of paste, which contained 1,719 grams of cocaine, inside a rucksack.

According to prosecutors, he was offered up to US$35,000 to take the rucksack from Sao Paulo in Brazil. They said a man called Marcos came to his home and threatened to kill him or hurt his younger sister if he changed his mind about the trip.

Defense counsel Michael Arthur explained that his client had borrowed 5 million Colombian pesos (HK$13,127) from a loan shark to cover living expenses and medicine for his sister, 17.

Sanchez, as her primary caregiver, was earning a monthly wage of 900,000 pesos while she needed a million pesos a month to treat the lupus she was suffering.

When he could not meet repayment deadlines and the 20 percent daily interest, Sanchez reluctantly agreed to work for the loan shark, Arthur said.

“He regrets getting involved in drug trafficking,” Arthur continued. “This is an offense that is borne out of desperation.”

The court heard that Sanchez joined a campaign to write blogs and send letters back home to discourage fellow Colombians from taking drugs to Hong Kong.

But deputy High Court judge Madam Justice Susana D’Almada Remedios did not accept that as a mitigating factor. However, she reduced the initial 25-year sentence by a third because of his guilty plea.<

“Dangerous drug trafficking is a very, very serious offense,” she said. “It is unfortunate that people like yourself are targeted … I have every sympathy for persons like you.”

There were clear and binding sentencing guidelines laid down by the Court of Appeal, the judge said.

Under Hong Kong law, those convicted of trafficking dangerous drugs can be jailed for life and fined HK$5 million.

Source: SCMP