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Asia’s El Chapo Tse Chi Lop was alleged meth mastermind drug kingpin of Sam Gor AKA The Company

The man dubbed ‘Asia’s El Chapo’ was allegedly the mastermind of a global smuggling network that allegedly brought in 70 per cent of Australia’s illegal drugs. 

Worth a staggering $26billion a year and a supply chain to ‘rival Apple’, the international drug smuggling network known simply as The Company allegedly offered its dealers a unique money-back guarantee against police raids.

Tse Chi Lop, 59, was finally extradited to Australia from the Netherlands this week after a two year legal fight since his arrest at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in January 2021. 

On Thursday, the Chinese-born Canadian national appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court amid unprecedented security, transported to and from court in a $930,000 military-grade armoured carrier protected by a line of armed officers.

Federal Police had asked Interpol to swoop on Tse after a decade-long investigation into his alleged role as the leader of The Company and nicknamed Sam Gor by police.

Tse Chi Lop, 59, was finally extradited to Australia from the Netherlands this week after a two year legal fight since he was arrested at Schiphol Airport in January 2021

Chinese-born Canadian national Tse Chi Lop appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court amid unprecedented security, transported in a $930,000 military-grade armoured carrier

Chinese-born Canadian national Tse Chi Lop appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court amid unprecedented security, transported in a $930,000 military-grade armoured carrier

GLOBAL SYNDICATE 

INTEL GOLDMINE 

A 2017 arrest in a Myanmar airport gave investigators several key breakthroughs. Cai Jeng Ze was spotted acting suspiciously and was allegedly discovered with two bags of ketamine strapped to his thighs.

But his two iPhones contained a wealth of information on the notoriously impenetrable Sam Gor network.

Cai Jeng Ze was spotted acting suspiciously and was allegedly discovered with two bags of ketamine strapped to his thighs

Cai Jeng Ze was spotted acting suspiciously and was allegedly discovered with two bags of ketamine strapped to his thighs

The video of a drug smuggler being tortured was just the start. The info on his phone revealed compromising pictures of tea packaging consignments to a Yangon address.

A police raid on the address found 622kg of ketamine and 1.1 tonnes of meth at a nearby Yangon jetty.

Cross-checking other pictures on the phone with the AFP’s extensive drugs database revealed one syndicate – Sam Gor or The Company – was controlling almost the entire Asian drug trade.

And among the pictures was allegedly one shot of Tse Chi Lop, spotted by an AFP officer working in Myanmar.

‘F***, I know who you are!’ he yelled.

Cai was cleared of smuggling ketamine through the airport but was last heard of in 2019 in a Myanmar jail still awaiting trial over the meth haul at the jetty. 

The syndicate is said to be behind 40-70 per cent of the world meth trade and dominates the Asian drug market, raking in billions which is laundered through casinos, real estate and shell companies across south-east Asia.

Unlike rival South American drug cartels, The Company brought together Asia’s previously warring triad and bikie gangs to collaborate peacefully to share in the huge cash rewards.

But for those who breached the circle of trust, the consequences were severe.

Police found mobile video of a drug smuggler being tortured by the syndicate after he was suspected of stealing 300kg of their meth.

The horrifying footage showed a blowtorch being held to the smuggler’s feet as he was tasered by a cattle prod to see if he would change his story that he threw the drugs overboard when he feared police were closing in on his boat.

The video was circulated throughout the syndicate as a warning to others. 

Around three-quarters of all Australia’s lucrative meth trade was said to be through The Company working with various bikie and Lebanese gangs across the country.

The profit margin on the drugs was so great, the traffickers could offer a money back guarantee to dealers if the shipment was intercepted by police.

Even if 99 out of 100 deliveries were seized by police, the syndicate still made back at least 200 times their original production costs on every kilo of meth.

Using imported Taiwanese workers, the syndicate churned out tonnes of their drug supply at massive meth factories in the jungles of north-west Myanmar, fed by raw ingredients brought in from factories in southern China.

Protected from prying eyes by the local rebel Kaung Kha militia, the remote location in Shan State allowed the factories to spread out the meth to dry slowly, improving its quality to be the best in Asia.

And the low budget production line meant each kilo of meth costs just $2,500 to make – and can sell for $500,000 a kilo in Australia…or $900,000 a kilo in Japan.

The syndicate churned out tonnes of their drug supply at massive meth factories in the jungles of north-west Myanmar, fed by raw ingredients brought in from factories in southern China

The syndicate churned out tonnes of their drug supply at massive meth factories in the jungles of north-west Myanmar, fed by raw ingredients brought in from factories in southern China

VAST PROFITS, LOW COSTS

Meth production costs are far lower and resale prices far higher than the heroin trade which is much more labour-intensive and needs vast poppy plantations.

More than 20 separate law enforcement agencies worldwide – led by Australian Federal Police under Operation Kungur – have spent a decade trying to unravel the massive criminal network covered by The Company.

AFP set up a criminal database with every detail of every drug case for the past decade, with a treasure trove of information for investigators.

It includes all connected names, the tell-tale chemical profiles of drugs seized, surveillance, phone and informant intelligence in the most detailed database of its kind in Asia.

But The Company’s set up is so sophisticated, he agencies in Australia, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Japan, the United States and Canada were foiled at almost every turn.

Kilos of meth were shipped around the world, often disguised as packages of loose leaf tea (pictured)

Each kilo of meth costs just $2,500 to make - and can sell for $500,000 a kilo in Australia or $900,000 a kilo in Japan

Kilos of meth were shipped around the world, often disguised as packages of loose leaf tea (left). Each kilo of meth costs just $2,500 to make – and can sell for $500,000 a kilo in Australia…or $900,000 a kilo in Japan.

Protected from prying eyes by the local rebel Kaung Kha militia, the remote location in Shan State allowed the factories to spread out the meth to dry slowly, improving its quality

Protected from prying eyes by the local rebel Kaung Kha militia, the remote location in Shan State allowed the factories to spread out the meth to dry slowly, improving its quality

MEGA MERGER BEHIND SAM GOR 

The Company, codenamed by police as Sam Gor – Cantonese for Brother Number Three – is the product of a string of triad gangs, bikies and drug cartels who have merged to work as one and reap the rewards.

At its heart are three of Hong Kong and Macua’s biggest triad gangs – 14K, Wo Shing Wo and Sun Yee On – who engaged in deadly warfare for most of the 1990s.

It’s also said to include Taiwan triads Big Circle Gang and Bamboo Union. Each of the gang’s individual druglords were recruited to work together in the syndicate.

In Australia, it’s alleged to have united bikie gangs like the Comancheros and Hells Angels with Lebanese crime gangs like the Alameddines.

It was allegedly headed by Tse Chi Lop, 59, – dubbed T1 as top target by the AFP – who jetted around the world by private jet and had a personal army of Thai kickboxers as his bodyguards.

In a show of wealth, detectives believe he once lost $98million in a single night at a Macau casino.

But unlike their South American rivals, the gangs involved in The Company rarely get embroiled in local wars, putting their differences aside in the interests of continuing to make the massive profits the drug trade has brought them.

And Tse deliberately kept a low profile – and remained free until the AFP ordered his arrest two years ago.

When they cracked down on trucks bringing the meth over the border from Myanmar to Thailand, the syndicate simply made them go via Laos and Vietnam.

GERALDTON SWOOP 

An Australian  who slapped down $350,000 for a fishing charter boat in Perth soon attracted AFP attention.

Joshua Joseph Smith, bought the boat in Perth in July 2017 and immediately set sail for the Indian Ocean where it intercepted a Sam Gor mother ship, Taiwanese trawler Shun De Man 66.

Smith’s MV Valkoista then returned to remote Geraldton where it was seen unloading packages into a van.

Armed police swooped as the boat returned to Geraldton and the crew unloaded the boat of its huge drugs cache before dawn (pictured)

Armed police swooped as the boat returned to Geraldton and the crew unloaded the boat of its huge drugs cache before dawn (pictured)

Phone taps, CCTV footage and car ire records then linked the haul with Lebanese drug gangs and bikies who arranged a 1.2 tonne meth deal.

Shun De Man 66 left Singapore for the Andaman Sea off Indonesia where it met a smaller boat loaded with meth from Myanmar before rendezvousing with MV Valkoista in international waters off the Western Australia coast in December 2017.

Armed police swooped as the boat returned to Geraldton and the crew unloaded its huge drugs cache at dawn.

Smith pleaded guilty to  possessing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug and jailed, with sentencing details suppressed because of other ongoing cases.

And when that was clamped down on, police sources revealed to Reuters in 2019 that The Company paid hundreds of Laotians to carry backpacks stuffed with 30kg of meth over remote jungle paths across the border through the mountains instead.

Once outside Myanmar, the traffickers used shipping containers and mother ships to shift the drugs around the world, often disguised as packages of loose leaf tea.

Smaller boats would meet the mothership in international waters where proof of both identities was confirmed by matching two sides of a ripped Hong Kong dollar bill.

Tonnes of the drug could then be transferred and brought ashore at remote ports before it was loaded into trucks and vans where they would then be spirited across the country.

Detective investigating The Company said its complex supply chain and distribution network would rival Apple’s.

Although arrests have been made along the way, only low level lieutenants have previously been seized.

Tse Chi Lop has long been targeted but remained elusive for years until he travelled from Taiwan to his adopted homeland of Canada in January 2021.

Tse claimed in court that Australian Federal Police managed to get him diverted through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport so they could have him arrested.

TRAFFICKING CHARGES 

Police allege Tse Chi Lop was part of a conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, or derivatives of the drug, totalling 20kg between March 2012 and March 2013.

He did not apply for bail and was escorted from court to jail in the armoured police vehicle.

The maximum penalty for conspiring to traffic commercial quantities of controlled drugs is life in prison.

The drugs have a street value of up to $4.4 million and were split up into separate quantities, police allege.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Krissy Barrett described the arrest as ‘extremely significant’ not only for the force but for the Australian community.

Police found 1.2 tonnes of meth unloaded from a boat in Geraldton to a waiting van (pictured)

Police found 1.2 tonnes of meth unloaded from a boat in Geraldton to a waiting van (pictured)

Armed police swooped as the boat returned to Geraldton and the crew unloaded its huge drugs cache before dawn

Armed police swooped as the boat returned to Geraldton and the crew unloaded its huge drugs cache before dawn

‘It would be one of the most significant arrests in the history of the (force),’ she told reporters.

The AFP in June this year also charged a Chinese-British dual national, 66-year-old Chung Chak Lee, with conspiring to traffic commercial quantities of drugs.

It’s alleged the 66-year-old is Tse’s co-offender and the pair conspired with junior Australian-based members to transport drugs between Sydney and Melbourne.

Eight others have been arrested over the matter but Ms Barrett said it would be ‘foolish’ to think the entire operation had been shut down.

Police allege Tse Chi Lop was part of a conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, or derivatives of the drug, totalling 20kg between March 2012 and March 2013

Police allege Tse Chi Lop was part of a conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, or derivatives of the drug, totalling 20kg between March 2012 and March 2013

Tse Chi Lop, 59, was finally extradited to Australia from the Netherlands this week after a two year legal fight since he was arrested at Schiphol Airport in January 2021

Tse Chi Lop, 59, was finally extradited to Australia from the Netherlands this week after a two year legal fight since he was arrested at Schiphol Airport in January 2021

She said Tse’s arrest was particularly significant because alleged senior members of syndicates were typically ‘hands off’ in their business dealings.

It’s alleged the syndicate paid for the drugs by posing as an Australian casino, illegally using its name on a bank account.

‘These transnational organised crime syndicates use multiple methods to launder their money,’ Ms Barrett said.

‘It’s a huge part of their business model, it’s not just getting the drugs into the country, it’s then being able to recycle the proceeds from those drugs so that they can reinvest in future ventures.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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