World

Dutch cops nab Asian drug kingpin ‘Sam Gor’ at Schiphol Airport

His organisation allegedly dominates $93 billion-a-year Asia-Pacific drug trade

AMSTERDAM/SYDNEY: Dutch police have arrested the alleged leader of a large Asian drug syndicate who is listed as one of the world's most-wanted fugitives and has been compared to Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Tse Chi Lop, a China-born Canadian national, was detained on Friday at the request of Australian police, who led an investigation that found his organisation dominates the US$70 billion (S$93 billion)-a-year Asia-Pacific drug trade, Dutch police spokesman Thomas Aling said on Saturday.

Tse, 56, is expected to be extradited after appearing before a judge, Mr Aling said, adding that his arrest by national police took place without incident at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

Tse - known by his nickname "Sam Gor" or Brother No. 3 in Cantonese - is the alleged senior leader of a sprawling transnational drug trafficking syndicate known as The Company to its members or, to some, the Sam Gor syndicate.

Born in China's southern Guangdong province, he became a member of the Big Circle Gang, a triad-like organisation founded by disillusioned Red Guards at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

He moved to Hong Kong, then Canada, and was arraigned by United States authorities for heroin trafficking in 1998.

After his release from an Ohio prison in 2006, he found his way back to Asia, where police alleged that he led the transformation of the region's multi-billion-dollar drug trade. Described as immensely wealthy and a prodigious gambler, Tse lost US$66 million in one night at a casino and travelled with a guard of Thai kickboxers.

Tse's crime syndicate allegedly dominates the Asia- Pacific crystal methamphetamine trade, which increased fourfold in the five years to 2019, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Regional law enforcers said the syndicate has imported highly potent meth into more than a dozen countries, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand, as well as trafficked heroin and MDMA (or ecstasy).

Mr Jeremy Douglas, UNODC's South-east Asia and Pacific representative, told Reuters in 2019 that "Tse is in the league of El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar", referring to Latin America's most notorious drug lords. - REUTERS

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