About HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) worth of ketamine concealed in food packages was found air mailed from Germany and the Netherlands over five weeks this year, prompting Hong Kong authorities to boost intelligence exchange with European forces.
The total haul of 20kg marked a new smuggling trend for the drug – a switch from traditional sources such as mainland China and Southeast Asia. The change in the supply chain meant a threefold increase of value on the local black market.
According to law enforcement sources, the price tag for ketamine jumped from HK$150 a gram in 2017 to HK$500 a gram in January.
The seizure from Europe was among more than 150kg of the drug uncovered by customs this year – higher than the 135kg seized for the whole of 2018 – with most detections made at the cargo terminal of the airport.
The initial source of smuggled ketamine, which is locally known as “K chai” and “special K”, is believed to have been from mainland China. But supply dropped sharply following a massive crackdown on underground drug labs in Guangdong province over the past two years.
“The [Chinese] drug labs were closed but there is still demand. Drug dealers are forced to find new suppliers of ketamine that are being smuggled into the city from different directions,” one source said.