Asia's very own Pablo Escobar earned US$17B in 2018
Police in the Netherlands say they've arrested Asia's most notorious drug lord, Tse Chi Lop.
He's often compared to other big names in the drugs trafficking industry, like Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, as well as Pablo Escobar.
On January 23, 2021, Dutch police arrested Tse at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, acting on an Australian-issued INTERPOL request.
Tse, also known as 'Sam Gor', which means 'Brother Number Three' in Cantonese, is the alleged leader of 'The Company' – a global drugs trafficking syndicate.
Born in Guangzhong Province, China, Tse joined the Big Circle Gang, which was founded by angry, disgruntled Red Guards near the tail-end of the country's Cultural Revolution, according to police sources.
Tse, who used to live in Toronto, Canada, moved around between Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan in recent years. And according to Australian Federal Police (AFP), the 57-year-old was heavily involved in the import and distribution of illicit drugs. The profits, authorities say, were laundered overseas.
"Tse Chi Lop is in the league of El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar," said Jeremy Douglas, Southeast Asia and Pacific representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Tse's international drug syndicate consists of an entire alliance of different crime organizations.
Police sources say Tse's drug syndicate was formed after a peace pact was made between five Asian criminal groups – the Big Circle Gang, the 14K, Wo Shing Wo triads from Hong Kong, Sun Yee On triads from Macau, and the Bamboo Union from Taiwan.
IMAGE: Reuters / The Japan Times
This alliance ended intense rivalry between the groups, and it also helped the entire syndicate earn staggering profits from their illicit drugs business.
UNODC estimates that 'The Company' earned US$17 billion from drugs trafficking back in 2018. The group was heavily involved in the trafficking of crystal meth and heroin, and became a major player in the global MDMA (also known as ecstasy) trade.
In 2019, Tse went into hiding in Taiwan after catching wind of the major global investigation against him and 'The Company'.
Both China and Australia issued warrants for his arrest, but neither of the countries have any extradition agreements with Taiwan, making it difficult to get a hold of him.
But Tse's arrest at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has proven especially useful for the AFP, who are currently seeking his extradition to Australia to face charges in court.
Bags of methamphetamine were found in a 2017 raid in Australia . IMAGE: Reuters / The Straits Times
Though the AFP haven't disclosed exactly what charges Tse faces once extradited, the drug kingpin was involved with at least 13 drug importations to Australia, according to documents viewed by Reuters.
But it's not yet clear whether Tse's arrest will impact the Asia-Pacific drug trade in any way. Even when Tse was laying low, it was business as usual for his drug syndicate. And according to police sources and UNODC, the COVID-19 pandemic itself hasn't really affected the region's drug trade.
Read more Culture stories: