AFP helping to track down Asia’s ‘El Chapo’
The Australian Federal Police are helping locate Tse Chi Lop.
The man dubbed ‘Asia’s El Chapo’, is suspected of smuggling billions of dollars of high-grade, highly addictive methamphetamine into Australia’s backyard every year.
News.com.au and Reuters report that Lop is the suspected leader of a huge, multinational drug trafficking syndicate known by insiders as ‘The Company’.
Lop is seen protected by an entourage of Thai kickboxers and has hosted lavish birthday parties at five-star hotels across the world, flown his family around in a private jet, and is believed to have once lost $97 million in single night at a casino in Macau.
His drug empire is believed to possibly be the world’s largest drug dealing operation.
An extensive investigation over several months by Reuters has revealed Lop is a 55-year-old Chinese-born Canadian national and the number one target of a vast counter-narcotics investigation being headed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
The cartel controls a 40% to 70% share of the wholesale regional meth market and could be making up to AU$24 billion each year.
“Tse Chi Lop is in the league of El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar,” Jeremy Douglas from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) told the investigation.
“The word kingpin often gets thrown around, but there is no doubt it applies here.”
Tse’s syndicate is nicknamed Sam Gor by police meaning ‘brother number three’ in Cantonese. The syndicate is suspected of importing drugs which include meth, heroin and ketamine, into countries concealed in packets of loose-leaf Chinese tea.
Reuters reporters traversed across Asia for months speaking to law enforcement officials and militia leaders to conduct the investigation. In addition, they collected intelligence reports from police and anti-narcotics agencies where they heard the operation was highly disciplined, sophisticated and less prone to violence than Latin cartels.
Syndicate also reportedly collaborated with bikie gangs
The syndicate is also known to collaborate with Australian bikie gangs including the Hells Angels and Comanchero Motorcycle Club, according to police.
“Sam Gor supplies a bigger, more dispersed drug market and collaborates with a more diverse range of local crime groups than the Latin cartels do, including Japan’s Yakuza, Australia’s biker gangs and ethnic Chinese gangs across Southeast Asia,” Reuters reported.
The investigation led by the AFP is Operation Kungur, which was previously unreported before the Reuters investigation.
It’s said to also involve authorities from Myanmar, China, Thailand, Japan, the United States, Canada and Taiwan.
The task of investigating Sam Gor’s activities is considered a difficult one, with one investigator telling Reuters the syndicates’s supply chain was so complex and expertly run it rivalled Apple’s.
“In the Sam Gor syndicate, police face a nimble and elusive adversary,” the report said, adding that Tse appeared to be unfazed by the current investigation.
Australia has been considered a profitable drug market for Asian crime gangs since the end of the Vietnam War.
Methamphetamine, which is also known as speed, ice or crystal, is a synthetic drug that can lead to serious long-term physical and mental health problems.
The wholesale price of a kilo of crystal meth that is produced in northeastern Myanmar is as little as $1,800, according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report citing the China National Narcotics Control Commission. The Average retail prices for crystal meth, according to the UN agency, are equivalent to $70,500 per kilo in Thailand, $298,000 per kilo in Australia and $588,000 in Japan.
On Friday, a worldwide study of drug use found that Adelaide had the highest level of methamphetamine use across more than 120 cities in 30 different countries.