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Police bust largest-ever meth smuggling syndicate in S. Korea

Police bust largest-ever meth smuggling syndicate in S. Korea

SEOUL: South Korean police said Monday they have arrested six members of a drug trafficking syndicate involving Taiwanese and Japanese organized crime rings of Taiwan, and South Korean drug dealers in connection with smuggling 112 kilograms of methamphetamine into the country.

The amount was the largest seizure of the drug ever in South Korea. The drugs had an estimated street value of 370 billion won (US$326.56 million) and are enough to be used simultaneously by 3.7 million people, according to police.

The six people arrested included a 25-year-old Taiwanese, a 32-year-old Japanese and a 63-year-old South Korean.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said the Taiwanese obtained a screw making machine on a ship at a port in the southeastern coastal city of Busan, which departed from Bangkok, on July 6 this year. Inside the machine were concealed 112 bags packed with 1 kilogram of methamphetamine each.

After the smuggling, the Taiwanese, along with another Taiwanese accomplice, transported the machine, sealed up by welding, to a warehouse in the city of Hwaseong, near Seoul, that he had rented prior to the smuggling. They took the machine apart to get hold of the drugs and stored them at an apartment in Seoul that he had also rented beforehand.

The Taiwanese transported 7 kilograms on July 29, 7 kilograms on July 31 and 8 kilograms on Aug. 18 of the drug to a Japanese dealer, who has yet to be arrested. The 34-year-old Japanese later sold the 22 kilograms of methamphetamine to the South Korean for 1.1 billion won.

After learning South Korean investigative authorities were moving to bust the syndicate, the Taiwanese attempted to exit the country on Aug. 26. He was arrested at Incheon airport, west of Seoul. The remaining 90 kilograms of the drug were confiscated.

Police are chasing four main culprits who are believed to have given instructions to the six people. The police have secured arrest warrants for the four from their corresponding countries.

The drug smuggling involved affiliated groups of the Taiwanese syndicate Zhulianbang, or the Bamboo Union Gang, and the Japanese Inagawa-kai crime syndicate, police also believe. South Korean drug dealers, which have no connection with drug making organizations, are believed to have depended on the crime syndicates.

They have also asked the Thai police to track down the shipment details of the screw making machine to get leads on how the methamphetamine was smuggled.