The alleged leader of a large Asian drug syndicate – listed as one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives – has been arrested by Dutch police. He has been compared to Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
It is a serious comparison for Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, was detained recently at the request of Australian police. It followed an investigation that found that his organization dominates the $70 billion-a-year Asia-Pacific methamphetamine drug trade.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the syndicate has imported highly potent meth into more than a dozen countries, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand, as well as trafficking heroin and MDMA.
Sources indicate that the syndicate’s money laundering operation spans the globe, with casino junkets and property investments used as vehicles.
Tse, 57, is an ex-convict who formerly lived in Toronto but moved between Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan in recent years.
Tse’s arrest by national police took place without incident at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, and he is expected to be extradited after appearing before a judge.
Per documents, Tse’s group has “been connected with or directly involved in at least thirteen cases” of drug trafficking since January 2015. Jeremy Douglas, Southeast Asia and Pacific representative for the UNODC revealed that “Tse Chi Lop is in the league of El Chapo, or maybe Pablo Escobar.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) had issued an arrest warrant for Tse in 2019, “in connection with AFP-led Operation Volante that dismantled a global crime syndicate operating in five countries.” Operation Kungur then looked into Tse and his syndicate.
While they got their man and Jeremy Douglas, the Southeast Asia and Pacific representative for the UNODC hailed the arrest a “great result”, he cautioned that it may not have a big impact on drug trafficking in the region.
“Kudos to the Australian Federal Police, but the organization remains, the demand for synthetic drugs has been built, and someone will step in to replace Tse.”
He further noted that it is hard to see his arrest having much of an impact beyond the near-term if the poor governance, corruption and easily available drug precursors in the region remain unaddressed.