“Socalj” for Borderland Beat
|Australian Federal Police (AFP) said it had taken the head of a global drug trafficking syndicate, dubbed ‘Asia’s El Chapo’, into custody after he was extradited from the Netherlands.|
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The AFP arrested a second man in June in connection with the case. “We allege the individuals charged by the AFP today and in June this year conspired to traffic large commercial quantities of methamphetamine within Australia,” said AFP Assistant Commissioner Krissy Barrett. “The AFP will make Australia a hostile environment for all trans-national serious organized crime syndicates that target our communities.”
Tse Li Chop was the prime target of Operation Kungur, an AFP-led investigation involving 20 agencies from Asia, North America, and Europe. The United Nations narcotics agency estimated the Sam Gor syndicate’s meth revenue in 2018 at $8 billion yearly and could be as high as $17.7 billion. Their 40% to 70% share of the wholesale regional meth market has expanded at least fourfold in the past five years. The Company was implicated in very large shipments including a 1.2-ton seizure of methamphetamine in Geraldton, Western Australia in 2017.
Between May and September 2018, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) conducted Operation Kungur-Oak, an investigation into drug trafficking in Melbourne’s western suburbs as part of the larger, global Operation Kungur. The investigation primarily focused on the drug syndicate controlled by Paul Ngo. Ngo was responsible for sourcing and purchasing methamphetamine and heroin from importers and other wholesale suppliers.
At the time of their arrests in September 2018, the syndicate members were found to be in possession of over $200,000 in cash, a hydraulic block press, over three kilograms of methamphetamine, over a kilogram of heroin and a cannabis grow house. During the period of the offending, Ngo dealt with over $1,000,000 of the proceeds of the syndicate’s criminal activity. Ngo and Do were also each sentenced for having dealt with money reasonably suspected of being the proceeds of crime in the years prior to this offending (Ngo having dealt with more than $1.9 million, Do having dealt with $283,161).
Nguyen, an associate of Ngo’s, was later sentenced for having trafficked in a commercial quantity of methamphetamine in July 2018 and having further trafficked in methamphetamine and dealt with the proceeds of crime in December 2018.
Who is Tse Li Chop?
He is protected by a guard of Thai kickboxers. He flies by private jet. And, police say, he once lost $66 million in a single night at a Macau casino.
This is the legend surrounding “Brother Number Three” or Sam Gor in Cantonese as Chop is nicknamed. The organization he ran is simply called “The Company” by its members. “Tse Chi Lop is in the league of El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar,” said Jeremy Douglas, the Southeast Asia and Pacific representative for UNODC. “The word kingpin often gets thrown around, but there is no doubt it applies here.”
Tse Chi Lop is a Canadian national born in Guangdong Province, China before moving to Hong Kong and then to Canada in 1988. There he joined the Big Circle Gang which had its roots in Mao’s Red Guards imprisoned in China. In 1998, according to court records, Tse was charged with drug trafficking in New York. It was said that he was involved with the Rizzuto family of La Cosa Nostra (LCN) at the time.
The FBI learned in 1998 that Tse was traveling to Hong Kong from mainland China. Police could arrest him in Hong Kong, which did have an extradition treaty with the US. Tse was arrested and extradited to New York a few months later. He was found guilty of conspiracy to import heroin into the US. He begged for leniency citing family health issues and was given only a 9-year sentence, which he served 6 of before being released.
Tse has been wanted for years and an Interpol red notice has been in place since 2019 after he was named publicly. Tse was arrested en route to Canada from Taiwan during a stopover in Amsterdam. It remains unclear how he was able to live without detection or arrest in Taiwan after being publicly named in 2019. UNODC Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas commented, “It’s a great result..but the organization remains”. He added, “…while taking down syndicate leadership matters, the conditions they have effectively used in the region to do business remain unaddressed, and the network remains in place. The demand for synthetic drugs has been built, and someone will step in to replace Tse.”