Asia-Pacific

Hong Kong in huge cocaine seizure

Slabs of the cocaine concealed inside wooden planks seized in Hong Kong
Image caption Wrapped slabs of cocaine were concealed inside hollowed-out planks

Customs officials in Hong Kong have seized a huge haul of cocaine worth $33.4m (£20.8m) bound for China.

The 290kg (639 pounds) of cocaine were found in 88 hollowed-out planks imported from Bolivia.

Officials said it was the second-largest drugs haul ever in the territory.

The discovery highlights the concerns of the authorities about growing recreational drug use in mainland China.

The drugs were hidden in a "sophisticated" and "well thought out" way, Hong Kong customs officials said.

"They hollowed out some of the wood planks and put it inside some of the genuine ones. And then inside those wood planks, hollowed out ones, they put the three pieces or three slabs of cocaine," said John Lee, head of the Customs Drug Investigation Bureau.

Plastic wrap and glue had been used to try to confuse sniffer dogs, and carbon paper was used to try to dull the perception of X-ray machines.

The shipment left Bolivia on 29 December 2010, was trucked to Chile and then shipped in containers to Taiwan, from where it was flown to Hong Kong.

Officials had delayed revealing the discovery in the hope that someone would come to collect the cargo. No arrests have yet been made.

Experts have said that China's growing wealth is spurring recreational use of drugs.

The scale of the latest haul highlights the growth of party culture in Beijing and in China's large coastal cities.

Hong Kong's largest ever cocaine haul was made in April last year, when 372kg (820 pounds) of the drug were found in a village.

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