Asia's Meth Kingpin Extradited to Australia

On Thursday, Australian police said that Tse Chi Lop — Asia's most-wanted meth kingpin — had arrived in Australia to face "conspiracy to traffic commercial quantities of controlled drugs" charges following a legal battle with Dutch authorities.

Asia's Meth Kingpin Extradited to Australia
Image credit: reuters

Facts

  • On Thursday, Australian police said that Tse Chi Lop — Asia's most-wanted meth kingpin — had arrived in Australia to face "conspiracy to traffic commercial quantities of controlled drugs" charges following a legal battle with Dutch authorities.
  • He will remain in custody until his next court appearance in Feb. 2023. Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian citizen, made no application for bail, but his lawyers say he will contest the charges.
  • Lop allegedly ran a multibillion-dollar crime syndicate known as "Sam Gor" or "The Company," laundering billions in drug money through casinos, hotels, and real estate in Southeast Asia's Mekong region. His 2018 meth revenue is estimated at $8B but could be as high as $17.7B.
  • The subject of an Interpol Red Notice, Lop was detained at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in Jan. 2021. According to the Australian Police, Sam Gor smuggled massive quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, and ketamine worth millions of dollars into Australia in packs of tea.
  • Australia's charges against Lop relate to specific operations from 2012 to 2013, where about $3M worth of methamphetamine was trafficked from Melbourne to Sydney. Lop has denied the charges.
  • Lop, dubbed Asia's "El Chapo" in a nod to Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman's nickname, faces life in prison if convicted.

Sources: Straits Times, Smh, Reuters, BBC News, and Al Jazeera.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by CNN. High-profile transnational organized drug cartels flourish in the Golden Triangle — the border region between Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos — under the control of competing warlords, drug traders, and militias. Tse Chi Lop's arrest is unlikely to affect the drug trafficking business in Southeast Asia until governments effectively implement political solutions to the region's decades-long civil war. It's a tall order, but if they don't, another Tse Chi Lop will soon rise and likely be harder to catch the next time.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Irrawaddy. There's no evidence there are drug kingpins or any significant triad involvement in the drug trade in Southeast Asia. If Tse Chi Lop were Asia’s El Chapo, the high-profile criminal would not have allowed himself to get caught in the public glare. Drug production in the Golden Triangle would have also suffered blows after his arrest. Since none of that happened, reports about drug kingpins and the massive flow of drugs in Southeast Asia are questionable.