Drug Traffickers May Have Set Up a Coconut Oil Brand To Hide Meth in Its Bottles

Hong Kong customs have seized about $19 million worth of methamphetamine disguised as coconut oil, in the city’s biggest airborne liquid meth trafficking bust in two decades.

Customs officers said they were suspicious after a batch of 7,680 bottles of coconut oil were imported into Hong Kong from Mexico on Sept. 14, given that the product rarely comes from the Latin American country.

An X-ray inspection showed that nearly 2,000 bottles contained questionable liquid. When customs officers opened these bottles, they did not smell any coconut oil, officers said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The liquid was later found to be about 230 kilograms of liquid crystal meth, with a market value of more than $150 million Hong Kong dollars ($19 million).

Officers said it was the biggest seizure of liquid meth at the airport in the past 20 years. A 45-year-old truck driver who was going to pick up the shipment was arrested and later released on bail, officers said.

“The drug trafficking syndicate has adopted very sophisticated tactics,” Superintendent Lee Man-lok said at the press briefing. “We even have reasons to believe that the drug trafficking group had devoted much time and money to build their own packaging and production lines.”

Lee said the group might have set up their own coconut oil brand just to conceal the drug.

Hong Kong is a major drug transshipment hub. Last year, customs confiscated 500 kilograms of crystal meth in a concrete shipment, the city’s biggest meth seizure ever.

In July, Hong Kong police also seized 39 kilograms of liquid meth mixed with avocado oil.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, shipments of trafficked drugs became less frequent but larger globally, resulting in many recorded seizures, according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report.

Hong Kong customs officers said earlier this month that the COVID travel restrictions had prompted drug smugglers to arrange large shipments by sea or air, instead of their usual way of trafficking in small quantities by land or mail.

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