Dutch police arrest alleged Asian drug syndicate kingpin

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch police said on Saturday they had arrested the alleged leader of a sprawling Asian drug syndicate who is listed as one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives and has been compared to Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, was detained on Friday at the request of Australian police, who led an investigation that found his organisation dominates the $70 billion-a-year Asia-Pacific drug trade, Dutch police spokesman Thomas Aling said.

Tse is expected to be extradited after appearing before a judge, Aling said, adding that his arrest by national police took place without incident at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

“He was already on the most-wanted list and he was detained based on intelligence we received,” Aling said. 

Dutch police were unable to provide details about the legal proceedings and it was not clear if Tse had a lawyer.

Tse, 57, an ex-convict who formerly lived in Toronto, has moved between Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan in recent years, according to counter-narcotics officers from four countries and documents reviewed by Reuters.

The group has “been connected with or directly involved in at least 13 cases” of drug trafficking since January 2015, the documents showed. 

Jeremy Douglas, Southeast Asia and Pacific representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told Reuters in 2019 that “Tse Chi Lop is in the league of El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar,” referring to Latin America’s most notorious drug lords.

The syndicate he is suspected of running is known to its members as “The Company”. Law enforcers also refer to it as “Sam Gor” – or Brother Number Three in Cantonese – after one of Tse’s nicknames, Reuters reported at the time.

Reuters was unable to contact Tse for comment on the report.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP), which has taken the lead in a sprawling investigation into the criminal organisation, said on Sunday it has issued an arrest warrant for him in 2019, “in connection with AFP-led Operation Volante, which dismantled a global crime syndicate operating in five countries.”

“The syndicate targeted Australia over a number of years, importing and distributing large amounts of illicit narcotics, laundering the profits overseas and living off the wealth obtained from crime.”

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Additional reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Helen Popper and William Mallard)

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