26th May 2020 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong Customs detected a drug trafficking case involving the use of an aircraft engine. Last Wednesday (20th), the Customs inspected a 20-foot container arriving from Ecuador at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound in Lai Chi Kok. In the dark compartment of an aircraft engine’s combustion chamber, about 217 kilograms of suspected cocaine were seized, with an estimated market value of about HK$246 million. This is the first time since 2012 that the largest case of cocaine trafficking by sea has been cracked, and it is the first time that the Customs has discovered that drug trafficking groups use aircraft engines to traffic drugs, and no one has been arrested.
Hong Kong Customs said that it has not traced the connections of the drug smuggling with transnational criminal organisations or local triad groups for the time being, but it is temporarily considered to be related to foreign syndicate. During the investigation of the case, it will exchange information with foreign law enforcement agencies. The relevant goods were found during the customs clearance process. Since the aircraft engines imported from Ecuador was rare and South America is the main source of drugs, the declaration documents were reviewed under a risk assessment and found to be normal. There are discrepancies in the customs procedures and they were detained for further inspection. The engine was x-rayed on 19th of this month and it was found that there was machinery hidden in it. Although it was reported to be a Boeing 737 engine, the engine was engraved with the word Boeing 707 instead. Since the Boeing 707 engine is a product of the 1960s, it was quite old and discontinued. Government flight service team was contacted to inspect the engine as the Customs officers lacked the relevant skills. The team found that the combustion chamber of the engine was different from the normal one, so heavy tools were used to drill with the assistance of some professionals, while the customs officers used endoscopy and found hidden objects suspected to be cocaine hidden in a dark compartment.
After the personnel investigated the information and background of the delivery companies, one of them was a company in Ecuador and the other was a trading company in Hong Kong. After investigation, it was discovered that the Hong Kong address was actually a company that provided secretarial services. It was established in April last year. Customs officials believe that in addition to the company registrant, at least one more local person was involved in the case.