China seizes 70kg of cocaine worth $8.11m in 'biggest' recent bust: Xinhua

BEIJING (AFP) - The Chinese police have with United States help seized 70kg of cocaine in the country's biggest single haul in recent years, state media said, as Beijing cracks down on drugs in a wider war on excess.

The police were tipped off about a suspect shipping container from Peru by United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials, the official news agency Xinhua said. "By analysing phone messages and emails of a Mexican drug cartel member who had been murdered, the DEA said the container would arrive in Shanghai on Aug 18, from where it would be put on board a ship destined for New Zealand," the Xinhua report said on Thursday.

Police and customs officials searched the ship upon its arrival in Shanghai and found the cocaine, Xinhua said, describing it as "the largest amount ever recovered by Chinese police in a single case in recent years".

It had a US street value of more than US$6.5 million (S$8.11 million), according to the most recent estimates from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

China's Public Security Ministry said it had "in recent years strengthened cooperation with foreign agencies including the DEA", the report said.

No information on the case could be found on the ministry's website or online blog, and it did not immediately respond to a request for information from AFP.

Drugs that are illegally imported into China often come through its porous southern borders around the Mekong, but instances of cocaine entering from South America "have been on the rise", Xinhua said.

Use of recreational drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy has risen in recent years as an economic boom has boosted the middle classes' disposable income.

Chinese authorities have mounted a crackdown on drug use in recent months, detaining celebrities including the son of Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan.

Taiwanese movie star Kai Ko, who was held in the same swoop on charges of "taking drugs", was released on Friday, the Beijing police said on a verified account on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.