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HK$490 million of liquid cocaine found hidden in wine shipment

Two men have been arrested after a record 444kg haul of liquid cocaine concealed in a shipment of bag-in-box wine was intercepted by Hong Kong customs.

A shipping container of wine sent from Brazil to China was found to contain liquid cocaine with an estimated street value of HK$490 million (£49.5 million), Hong Kong’s drug investigation bureau has revealed.

It is the largest haul for liquid cocaine in both value and weight to be found since records in the city began more than 20 years ago.

The discovery was made on 19 December after customs officials spotted “signs of re-sealing” on 37 out of the 706 wine boxes stashed in the container. Each of the 37 boxes was meant to contain four 3l bags of white wine.

Samples taken following the sting tested positive for cocaine, revealed Superintendant Jacky Tsan Kin-bon of the drug investigation bureau.

The finding pushes the total weight of illegal drugs seized at Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department last year to almost 9.5 tonnes, with 37% more narcotics seized than the previous annual record (in 2022) of 6.9 tonnes.

Smuggler’s paradise

While drugs have frequently been found hidden in bottles of spirits, wine is increasingly becoming a vessel for the smuggling of illegal substances.

In Shanghai, a couple was arrested by authorities after 32 bottles of different branded wines in their suitcases were found to contain dissolved cocaine when they arrived at Pudong International Airport from São Paulo, Brazil.

In August last year, the drinks business reported that Mexican marines had uncovered 7,200 Mezcal bottles hiding liquid meth at Mexico’s Manzanillo Port. The shipment, uncovered on a Liberian ship, was bound for Australia.

Mexico News Daily has claimed that some Tequila brands are “allies for narcos” and helping cartels to launder drugs money.

The news outlet reported that the federal government in Mexico, via its Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF), had frozen the bank accounts of 1,770 people and 167 businesses linked to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) in 2020 through a money-laundering network of companies posing as vendors of Tequila.







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