Hong Kong police have made their biggest cocaine seizure this year, confiscating more than HK$200 million (US$25.6 million) worth of the illegal drug hidden in 40 tonnes of scrap metal at a warehouse in the New Territories.

Superintendent Wilson Tam of the force’s narcotics bureau said on Sunday that officers intercepted two cargo containers from South American country Suriname last week after receiving intelligence, and discovered 225kg (495lbs) of cocaine bricks – the most found this year by police.

“We’ve noticed that transnational drug syndicates have used international logistics to traffic large amounts of suspected cocaine into Hong Kong,” he said.

Police seized 225kg of suspected cocaine. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Tam said officers traced the cargo to a 10,000 sq ft warehouse in Ping Che, near Fanling, and spent more than 15 hours on Friday examining every single piece of scrap metal among the 40 tonnes for hidden drugs.

Chief Inspector Charm Yiu-kwong of the bureau said the force found 225kg of cocaine bricks in nine boxes made from I-shaped metal beams used in construction.

“The syndicate hired workers who we believe had no knowledge of the drugs to unload the metal on-site, with syndicate members controlling the operation,” Charm said.

Police said officers apprehended two workers and two alleged members of the syndicate at the warehouse, arresting the latter pair.

The cocaine had a street value of more than HK$200 million.

The two suspects arrested were an unemployed man surnamed Tse, 22, and a man surnamed Yip, 29, who worked as a handler.

The rest of the scrap metal found at the warehouse did not contain any drugs.

Tam said the force would have to investigate whether the bulk of the cocaine was meant for the local market or for transferring to other countries.

But from past experience, he said, cargo shipments contained a larger amount of drugs, which would usually be stored locally before sale.

(From left) The narcotics bureau’s Chief Inspector Charm Yiu-kwong, Superintendent Wilson Tam and Senior Inspector Lee Chun-man. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Tam said the force had received intelligence that a shipment with drugs from Suriname would arrive in the city and located it by tracing cargo arrivals from the South American country.

“We have ways to investigate cargo shipments to the city, such as tracing order numbers,” he said.

The two suspects will appear at Fanling Court on Monday for allegedly trafficking in illegal drugs.

In May last year, police seized cocaine and cannabis with an estimated market value of about HK$650 million in several industrial buildings.

The haul, some of which was hidden in boxes of frozen fish, comprised 592kg of suspected cocaine and 91.2kg of suspected cannabis buds. Four men were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking.

Last September, customs officers confiscated HK$180 million worth of cocaine in a raid on an industrial unit. A source said an investigation indicated that the 230kg of drugs seized were intended for the local underground market.