Dutch police nab alleged leader of Asian drug ring

Tse Chi Lop, deemed in same league as Mexico's El Chapo, held after sprawling Australia-led probe

Bags containing methamphetamine found in a van during a police operation in Geraldton, Australia, in December 2017. The syndicate that Mr Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, is suspected of running is known to its members as "The Company".
Bags containing methamphetamine found in a van during a police operation in Geraldton, Australia, in December 2017. The syndicate that Mr Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, is suspected of running is known to its members as "The Company". The probe led by the Australian police found that it dominates the Asia-Pacific drug trade that is worth US$70 billion (S$93 billion) a year. PHOTO: REUTERS

AMSTERDAM • Dutch police said on Saturday they had arrested the alleged leader of a sprawling Asian drug syndicate who is listed as one of the world's most-wanted fugitives and has been compared with Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Mr Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, was detained last Friday at the request of the Australian police, which led a probe that found that his organisation dominates the Asia-Pacific drug trade that is worth US$70 billion (S$93 billion) a year, said Dutch police spokesman Thomas Aling.

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

Mr Tse, 57, a former convict who formerly lived in Toronto, has moved between Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan in recent years, according to counter-narcotics officers from four countries and documents reviewed by Reuters.

The group has "been connected with or directly involved in at least 13 cases" of drug trafficking since January 2015, the documents showed.

Mr Jeremy Douglas, South-east Asia and Pacific representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told Reuters in 2019 that "Tse Chi Lop is in the league of El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar", referring to Latin America's most notorious drug lords.

The syndicate he is suspected of running is known to its members as "The Company".

Law enforcers also refer to it as "Sam Gor" - or Brother Number Three in Cantonese - after one of Mr Tse's nicknames, Reuters reported at the time.

The Australian Federal Police, which took the lead in the sprawling investigation into the criminal organisation, said yesterday that it had issued an arrest warrant for Mr Tse in 2019, "in connection with... Operation Volante, which dismantled a global crime syndicate operating in five countries".

"The syndicate targeted Australia over a number of years, importing and distributing large amounts of illicit narcotics, laundering the profits overseas and living off the wealth obtained from crime."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2021, with the headline 'Dutch police nab alleged leader of Asian drug ring'. Subscribe