Customs Commissioner's Speech at the opening ceremony of the Regional Seminar on Customs Cooperation Against Drug Trafficking (English Only)

25 Jan 2007

Following is the speech (English only) by Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Mr Timothy Tong, at the opening ceremony of the Regional Seminar on Customs Cooperation Against Drug Trafficking this morning (January 25):

Commissioner for Narcotics, Distinguished Guests, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, let me extend a warm welcome to you all. As we are still at the beginning of a new year, Hong Kong Customs wishes everybody prosperity, good health, productive work, and happiness in Year 2007.

Hong Kong Customs have had a very productive year at work, in a number of areas including drug investigation. In 2006, our enforcement officers arrested 590 persons connected with drug offences. We seized 47 kilograms of heroin, 53 kilograms of ketamine, 11 kilograms of cocaine, 103 kilograms of cannabis, and a vast variety of psychotropic drugs. The Customs Drug Investigation Bureau (CDIB), with my colleague Ben Leung at the helm, has done a marvelous job. Ben would be the first one to acknowledge the high professional skills of his colleagues aside, international cooperation is the reason of their success.

Y K Tam, Assistant Commissioner (Intelligence & Investigation), Ben Leung, and myself recently reviewed our work on drug investigation. We agreed that success depends 10% on luck, 40% on hard work and 50% on intelligence. This was evident in "Operation Scenthound", a case detected in March 2006. A well organized Columbian syndicate was smashed, with 142 kilograms of cocaine seized and 9 persons arrested in the Mainland and Hong Kong. Detection was the result of joint efforts by China's General Customs Administration, the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of Shenzhen Customs, the Drug Enforcement Administration of the US, and Hong Kong Customs. The crucial importance of intelligence, coming from cross-boundary co-operation, was borne out at some golden moments on 15 March 2006, when a series of arrests took place at different locations in HK, Zhuhai and Zongshan. This was a classic display of precision enforcement. Actions were synchronized only because agents from different jurisdictions selflessly shared valuable intelligence at all material times.

In the operation, US, Mainland China and Hong Kong investigators worked closest ever in full dedication and mutual trust, always bringing each other up-to-date on the movements of their targeted persons, always sharing with each other all they knew of the progress in their investigations.

This was also the spirit underlying the joint operation between Hong Kong Customs and Guangzhou Customs in late 2006, by which operation we brought to a halt heroin trafficking from the "Golden Crescent" through body concealment. In this operation, code-named "Moon-raker", early tipping off by Anti-smuggling Bureau of Guangzhou to my colleagues in CDIB enabled the long arms of the law to receive the arrival of 15 African couriers from Tehran en route Doha. Each courier swallowed from 91 heroin pellets (weight 1.5 kg) to as many as 154 heroin pellets. The large quantity of the drugs inside their belly set an infamous record in this mode of drug trafficking. The speedy alarm we received from our Mainland Colleagues, however, allowed Hong Kong to hit the syndicates hard on the face.

Half a century ago, US President Dwight Eisenhower commented "No nation's security and well-being can be achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations." Two thousand years earlier, something similar was said in the script of Mencius, a famous Chinese scholar, "Form alliance with other jurisdictions, and we shall prevail". What they said of human battle to defend national security is also true for our fight against drugs. The transnational nature of drug trafficking puts criminals beyond the reach of any single law enforcement agency. Cooperation among jurisdictions, whether in the form of joint enforcement projects or sharing of information and experience, is of primary importance. It is precisely with this in mind that today's seminar is held.

To-day, we have in this room many of the world's most knowledgeable and experienced experts in drug investigation. Your professionalism, vigilance and dedication to law enforcement are well proven. Joining hands together, I am confident that in our fight against drug trafficking, we will win.

I wish this seminar every success. I hope you will enjoy the process and have a good harvest.

Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, January 25, 2007

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