Australian Federal Police have been targeting the Chinese drugs empire with triad links for decades. Together with other police agencies and the UN agency responsible for fighting illicit drug proliferation, they estimate the organisation made a net profit of no less than $17 billion alone in 2017. A key focus of the investigation is the ability of the group with links in Thailand and other countries in Asia to remain mobile with many operatives domiciled outside of China and purchasing 2nd passports. The organisation known as ‘The Company’ has also used extended Chinese communities worldwide, in particular in Hong Kong and Taiwan, to cloak its activities.
A large drug shipment of ‘ice’ originating in Thailand and seized by Australian police on May 4th in Sydney could yield further significant arrests. The Head of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau in the kingdom, Police Lieutenant General Montri Yimyaem, has indicated that it is linked to Hong Kong international drug kingpin Lee Chung Chak who is currently being held in Thailand following his arrest in Bangkok last October. He also suggested that police forces in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police may be on the verge of finally suppressing the international Asian Pacific drug syndicate with links to China which has dominated the drug trade in the region for decades.
The seizure of a consignment of drugs in Sydney that were shipped from Thailand on March 25th last from Laem Chabang Port in Chonburi is being touted as heralding further arrests of key members of the Sam Gor gang or ‘The Company’ which the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and key security agencies believe is responsible for between 40 to 70% of all illicit drugs shipped in the Asia Pacific region particularly in the trade of the deadly ‘ice’ substance or crystal methamphetamine which has plagued Thailand in the last decade.
The drug consignment of 316 kg of crystal methamphetamine was found concealed in barbecue grills and water heaters. The shipment was taken by a Chinese vessel from Thailand to Singapore and loaded onto a Portuguese ship there before sailing for Australia.
Key arrest of syndicate leaders in Bangkok and Amsterdam between October 2020 and January 2021
It follows the arrest in October 2020 and January 2021 of key leaders of the group in Bangkok and Amsterdam following close cooperation between Asian security agencies and the Australian Federal Police which has been investigating the triad group for decades.
In October 2020, police in Bangkok arrested 65-year-old Lee Chung Chak at an upmarket serviced apartment in the Thai capital city and seized his laptop and several smartphones.
Investigating officers working with the Royal Thai Police task force described the information found at the arrest site as invaluable to regional efforts by police agencies to suppress activities of The Company in Asia which have particularly harmful consequences in Thailand.
Shipment that left Thailand for Sydney linked to drug kingpin Mr Lee currently jailed in Thailand
In recent days, the Chief of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, Police Lieutenant General Montri Yimyaem, who is reported to be working closely with National Police Commissioner General Suwat Jangyodsuk on the case, indicated that the shipment intercepted by police in Sydney on May 4th last was linked to the activities of the drug kingpin Mr Lee who is presently being held in Thailand as he fights extradition proceedings from Australia before the Thai courts
A list of 19 of the top officers or executives of Sam Gor was drawn up in recent years by the Australian police force.
Top triad executive ranked number six in the organisation and who is responsible for liaising with operations in Myanmar’s Shan State and China
It listed Mr Lee at Number Six and described him as a key executive within the secretive organisation which represents combined Chinese triad gangs.
‘The Company’ or Sor Gor styles itself as a corporation and tries to avoid both publicity and acts of violence which generate public outrage and consequent media coverage causing a light to be shown on its dark exploits.
This is what has led police agencies to brief the media on the group as a means to boost public awareness.
Mr Lee is understood to have a particular responsibility for the operation of the drug empire in Myanmar’s Shan State where the gang has vast factory production capability to produce the crystal methamphetamine product.
Golden Triangle drugs threat aired in parliament, claims of senior police officers being involved in trafficking
These factories are supplied by a network of storage facilities in Southern China where huge numbers of precursors for the drugs have been built up.
Chemical engineers who boost profits
The organisation is also reported to have found ways to bypass the use of these precursors through chemical innovation within Shan state led by top chemical engineers cooperating with the regional drug lords in Myanmar.
This has boosted profits and helped to lower the price of drugs which have been flooding Thailand in the last two years.
Police hoping for further leads after debriefing those linked to the shipment from Thailand to Australia
Police Lieutenant General Montri has indicated, in recent days, that those associated with the March 25th drug shipment from Chonburi are being held by police in a secure location and being debriefed by investigators.
He revealed that police agencies aim to identify further kingpins in the drug trade for arrest and bring the Sam Gor network to an end.
‘We will have to give the officers some time to work on this case and disclose the truth to the public and end the drug trafficking network for good,’ he revealed.
Leader of ‘The Company’ which made $17 billion profit in 2017 alone arrested in January 2021
Following the arrest of Mr Lee in Bangkok last October, in January 2021, the leader of the ‘The Company’, billionaire Tse Chi Lop was arrested at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam by Dutch police acting on a request from the Australian Federal Police.
The drug network leader, who has been styled by the media as the El Chapo of the Asia Pacific region, was intercepted as he flew back to Canada where he has lived since he emigrated there in 1988.
The Company or Sam Gor which police, in association with the UN agency to combat drugs, estimate made a net profit of $17 billion alone in 2017, also has close links to the Communist Party in Beijing.
Links to Communist China and the Chinese government’s flagship Belt and Roads initiative
One key associate is Wan Kuok Koi aka ‘Broken Tooth’, another name on the list of top executives of The Company who is the boss of 14k triad, itself one of the largest Chinese criminal organisations in the world.
Released from prison in Taiwan in December 2020, he has been blacklisted by US authorities from dealing with American banks, financial organisations or firms.
US Treasury officials have reported that the crime boss was accredited with access to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body to the Communist Party.
Mr Wan is also known to be an investor in Cambodia where Chinese narcotics crime boss and casino investor Zhao Wei has also been linked to the Communist Party and the expansion of Chinese influence abroad according to US sources who have categorised him and his firms as a ‘transnational criminal organisation’ with a particular interest in Cambodia and Laos.
Mr Wan, according to US official sources including those at the US Treasury, is known to have linked the criminal operations of The Company to the Chinese state’s flagship Belt and Road infrastructure initiative to expand China’s role worldwide which is looked at with scepticism and with growing suspicion by western authorities, in particular both the United States and Australia.
Dominating the drugs trade in Asia since the 1970s and linked to infamous Aussie Biker Gang
The triad criminal group has been involved in the trade and export of narcotics throughout the Asia Pacific from China since the 1970s and is linked for instance to the infamous exploits of the Aussie Bikers Gang in Pattaya in recent decades.
Australian man pleads for help for his son and Thai wife sentenced to death for failed drug trafficking plot at sea
This has produced horrific stories of murder, betrayal and saw 36-year-old Australian Luke Cook and his Thai wife sentenced to death in 2018 for their part in a drug export scheme from China to Australia via Thailand that went awry.
Criminal organisation’s leader emigrated from China to Toronto, Canada in 1988 and became involved with ex Red Guards of Mao Tse-Tung from the 60s/70s
The 58-year-old leader of the group, Mr Tse, was born in Guangzhou China and emigrated to Canada in 1988. There, he joined forces with a criminal gang in Toronto which had links to ex-members of Mao Tse-Tung’s Red Guards who were persecuted and fled China during the cultural revolution from 1966 to 1976.
The crime gang has contacts and networks worldwide but particularly in the Asia Pacific and in all countries including Thailand, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, Myanmar, Laos, New Zealand, China and Vietnam.
The key vector to the gang’s success has been its export of drugs from China or territories under the Chinese gang’s control across the Asia Pacific but particularly to Australia where its associate Mr Lee has been known to police in Melbourne and other key Australian cities since the 1970s.
Ability of criminal gang members to buy passports, travel freely and buy officials being examined by the decades-old investigation led by the Australian police
Before Mr Lee’s arrest in Bangkok last October, it is understood that he was based in Hong Kong.
The use by Chinese criminal gang of domiciles outside China including the purchase of passports through investment schemes and their ability to travel and use influence with paid-for connections with key officials throughout the world is a key aspect of the ongoing investigation by the Australian Federal Police who have been investigating the case for decades.
The crime organisation has used the extended network of genuine, entrepreneurial and law-abiding Chinese communities worldwide both to cloak its activities and extend its reach.
Cypher used by drug boss to foil eavesdropping Australian police who wire tapped all the gang’s calls
Australian police in 2016 broke a cypher used by Mr Lee who some law enforcement sources suggest has developed his own organisation aside from The Company which may be even larger, to traffic drugs in the Asia Pacific.
This was revealed as the police in Canberra have admitted that they have extensive recordings of communications between key executives of the criminal organisation.
The cypher involved Mr Lee being referred to as Mr John with Mr A standing for heroin, Mr B for cocaine and Mr C for crystal methamphetamine.
Government licenced casino revealed by the press to be a money laundering point for The Company
A scandal erupted in Melbourne in 2019 and 2020 when a well known and government licenced casino was highlighted by the Australian media including the Sydney Morning Herald as being involved in a scheme to launder money for ‘The Company’.
The scandal was examined by the Bergin inquiry set up by the licencing authority in the Australian state of New South Wales following the concern raised by press reports. This inquiry was to determine if Crown Resorts, the company behind the Melbourne venture in Victoria state, was fit to hold such a licence for a resort in Sydney.
Endless hours of CCTV footage showing cash linked with The Company arriving at a casino in Melbourne
The firm, with a high powered board of directors, had vehemently denied the press reports and any knowledge of ‘The Company’.
The final report into the firm, run by the son of former Australian tycoon Kerry Packer, James Packer, was damning. It found that the firm was not suitable to hold a licence. The Packer family is one of the richest and well-known in Australia.
The inquiry unearthed endless hours of footage showing cash arriving at the casino resort in Melbourne in vans and other evidence which led to arrests by police in 2016.
The outcome of the report, produced by the Honourable Patricia Bergin, Senior Counsel, and published in February 2021, was complex and is still being studied.
Ads denying links to ‘The Company’ by resort firm described by the final official report as ‘misleading’
A series of newspaper ads paid for by Crown Resorts denying the press reports of its links to the Chinese triad organisation was described by the inquiry as ‘misleading’ and Crown was ordered to pay AU$22.5 million towards the costs of the probe.
The Australian fight back against ‘The Company’ comes after a 2008 statement by then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd which identified the organisation as a significant threat to Australia and a statement in 2020 by a Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Karl Kent, who described it as ‘a huge threat to Australia not only in terms of illicit drugs but in terms of people smuggling and in terms of firearms.’