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Hong Kong authorities seize 290 kilograms of cocaine

By the CNN Wire Staff
The head of Hong Kong Customs' Drug Investigation Bureau displays bags of cocaine following a bust in 2006.
The head of Hong Kong Customs' Drug Investigation Bureau displays bags of cocaine following a bust in 2006.
  • "High-grade cocaine" is found in a shipping container
  • It arrived in Hong Kong from Chile
  • No arrests have been made, but the investigation is ongoing
  • Hong Kong

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Some 290 kilograms (639 pounds) of "high-grade cocaine" was discovered in a shipping container at a Hong Kong terminal, the government said in a statement Wednesday.

The cocaine, worth some HK $260 million (U.S. $33 million) was found December 29 at the Kwai Chung Container Terminal, "in a container arriving from South America and destined for the mainland," Hong Kong's Information Services Department said.

Hong Kong's customs department has recently stepped up inspections of "suspicious consignments from South America" at the terminal, the statement said.

Customs officers intercepted two containers that purportedly contained "wood working products" from a container vessel from Chile, officials said. "Following inspection using the X-ray system and drug detector dogs, officers found a batch of cocaine in one of the containers, concealed inside 88 pieces of hollowed-out wood planks," the statement said.

The investigation was ongoing, authorities said, and no arrests have yet been made. Hong Kong is working closely with Chinese and overseas drug enforcement agencies, said John Lee, head of Hong Kong Customs' Drug Investigation Bureau, in the statement.

It was the largest seizure of drugs ever for the customs department. However, Hong Kong police last April had a larger bust, which saw the seizure of 372 kilograms (820 pounds) of cocaine with a value of HK $337 million, or U.S. $43.4 million. That seizure stemmed from a missing persons report that led to the discovery of the cocaine in a home. Eight people were arrested in that case, police said at the time.

Drug trafficking is a serious offense, the Hong Kong government statement said, with a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $5 million fine.

CNN's Roya Shadravan contributed to this report.