November 20th, 2011
11:42 PM GMT
Hong Kong (CNN) - As mainland Chinese discover expensive wines and luxury cars from the west, so too grows the demand for illegal drugs such as cocaine.
And this booming trade uses Hong Kong as a conduit between Latin American producers and the burgeoning mainland China market. On September 18, local police arrested eight individuals, one of them a U.S. citizen, in connection with a 567-kilogram seizure worth around US$77 million in the local market.
“Historically, Hong Kong has been the center of drug trafficking in this region,” said Simon Young, Director of the Center for Comparative Law at the University of Hong Kong.
Amounts found by authorities have been increasingly large in the territory over the last years. A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes said they expect consumption in Mainland China to continue its rise.
“There’s enormous amounts of drug proceeds that go through this jurisdiction,” Young told CNN.
And Hong Kong’s streets illustrate its increasing status as a Latin American cocaine entrepôt.
“There’s more cocaine available, so the price is dropping,” Angel Li, Education Officer at the NGO Community Drug Advisory Council, told CNN. Current street price of cocaine in China is US$50, down from US$150 a gram.
Last week, six of the eight arrested in September appeared in Tuen Mun district court. The prosecution requested the trial be postponed, arguing that local authorities had been unable to analyze the half a ton of narcotics now in their custody in the nine weeks between the seizure and court hearing.
As mainland demand for cocaine grows, it’s likely Hong Kong law enforcement officials will face more problems like this so long as the city is the port of choice for the China drug trade.
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