According to a narcotics official in Thailand, another leader of a massive drug syndicate has been arrested in that country, as an international dragnet closes around the Sam Gor drug trafficking organization. Police say the group is the dominant player in the $70 billion annual drug trade in Pacific Asia.
The October arrest in Bangkok of Lee Chung Chak from Hong Kong happened just before last month’s notable Netherlands arrest of Tse Chi Lop. Tse is a China-born Canadian resident who law enforcement thinks is the leader of the drug syndicate.
Lee Is Suspected Of Drug Trafficking Crimes For 4 Decades
Lee, 65, was in prison with Tse and is suspected of being a major player in drug tracking for 40 years. An Australian Federal Police document in 2018 seen by Reuters outlined the most essential 19 targets in the drug crime syndicate and described Lee as a top project manager in charge of significant shipments of border-controlled drugs.
The two arrests in different parts of the world within 90 days stem from a far-reaching drug investigation by the Australian Federal Police that went on for a decade. The AFP also heads a multinational Operation Kungur team that targets the drug syndicate.
It is unusual for a major drug trafficker to be arrested and prosecuted in the Asia Pacific. This is the first case of this magnitude in the area in several years.
The head of Thailand’s Narcotics Suppression Bureau told the press that the suspect was apprehended by the narcotics police in Thailand on October 1, based on an arrest warrant from a court in Thailand. This followed a request for extradition by the Australian police.
The Thai court is processing that extradition.
Lee Emerges As Rival To The Canadian As A Top Drug Trafficker
In the last several years, Lee has become a significant rival to the Canadian Tse as a big player in the area’s drug trade, according to two police investigators. One of them noted that Lee’s star is rising to be the most significant player in the Asia Pacific drug trade. Arresting him is a big win for law enforcement.
Thai police seized several phones and laptops when they searched his apartment in Bangkok, which could be a massive treasure trove of intelligence. Another officer stated that documents and money in several denominations were seized.
Lee is appealing the extradition request approval that Australia made in the Thai Criminal Court. Tse is being held in the Netherlands, where a court has not ruled in the Australian extradition.
Lee cannot be contacted while he is in prison, and it is unclear who his attorney is.
Tse’s role in the drug syndicate was first revealed by Reuters in 2019.
The Office Of Drugs and Crime at the United Nations estimates that the drug syndicate moved about $17 billion in methamphetamine trafficking in the Asia Pacific in 2018. A UN official compared Tse to the vicious Latin American drug boss, El Chapo Guzman.
Police also believe that the drug crime group moves cocaine, heroin, ketamine, and MDMA or ecstasy.
Tse And Lee Had Multiple Warrants For Their Arrests
Tse and Lee had several warrants out for their arrest around the globe. They will likely be charged in connection with crimes involving importing illegal drugs 10 years ago.
The two suspected criminals ran drugs to drug ring based in Melbourne and were recorded on the telephone and cell phone calls directing the ring’s leader, Suky Lieu.
A judge rejected Lieu’s effort to have his prison sentence cut, noting that Lieu owned an Asian grocery store and was in touch with his drug suppliers in Hong Kong, He allegedly used 60 phones and SIM cards to elude the police. The verdict read that Lieu was the head of the drug ring, but Tse and Lee were not named.
The two drug investigators informed Reuters that Lee was placed under arrest in Australia in the 1980s, allegedly managing several heroin couriers. He never had to go to trial because a vital witness died.
According to federal court filings, he received 140 months in federal prison in 1998 for being a supervisor to a conspiracy to bring heroin into the US. Lee was brought from Thailand on extradition to face the charges. He spent several years in the Elkton prison in Ohio when Tse also was there.
Tse received nine years in federal prison for another conspiracy to bring heroin into the US. The men were released from Elkton within 30 days of one another, accordion to the US Bureau of Prisons.
Police believe Lee played a key role later for the drug syndicate when he oversaw several drug lab operators in northern Myanmar. This area has been the headquarters of drug manufacturing in the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia for decades.