World’s biggest drug dealer exposed

 

He's the man dubbed 'Asia's El Chapo' who is suspected of smuggling billions of dollars of high-grade, highly addictive methamphetamine into Australia's backyard every year.

Protected by an entourage of Thai kickboxers, he's hosted lavish birthday parties at five-star hotels across the world, flown his family around in a private jet, and is believed to have once lost $97 million in single night at a casino in Macau.

You won't find a documentary series about him on Netflix, but he runs what could be the world's largest drug dealing operation.

Tse Chi Lop is the target of a multinational investigation. Picture: Supplied
Tse Chi Lop is the target of a multinational investigation. Picture: Supplied

This mystery man - the suspected leader of a huge, multinational drug trafficking syndicate known by insiders as 'The Company' - is Tse Chi Lop, according to Reuters.

An extensive, months-long investigation carried out by the news service has revealed he's a 55-year-old Chinese-born Canadian national and the number one target of a vast counter-narcotics investigation being headed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

The cartel controls 40% to 70% share of the wholesale regional meth market and could be making up to AU$24 billion each year.

"Tse Chi Lop is in the league of El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar," Jeremy Douglas from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) told the investigation.

"The word kingpin often gets thrown around, but there is no doubt it applies here."

AFP officers intercepted more than $100 million worth of ice disguised as tea in May last year. Picture: AAP Image/David Moir
AFP officers intercepted more than $100 million worth of ice disguised as tea in May last year. Picture: AAP Image/David Moir

Tse's syndicate - nicknamed Sam Gor by police meaning 'brother number three' in Cantonese - is suspected of importing drugs, including meth, heroin and ketamine, into countries concealed in packets of loose-leaf Chinese tea.

Reuters reporters who traversed across Asia for months talking to law enforcement officials and militia leaders as well as collecting intelligence reports from police and anti-narcotics agencies, heard it was highly disciplined, sophisticated and less prone to violence than Latin cartels.

It's also known to collaborate with Australian bikie gangs including the Hells Angels and Comanchero Motorcycle Club, police say.

"Sam Gor supplies a bigger, more dispersed drug market and collaborates with a more diverse range of local crime groups than the Latin cartels do, including Japan's Yakuza, Australia's biker gangs and ethnic Chinese gangs across Southeast Asia," Reuters reported.

Methamphetamine comes in a few different forms. Picture: AFP
Methamphetamine comes in a few different forms. Picture: AFP

Operation Kungur - the investigation being led by AFP officers - was previously unreported before the Reuters investigation.

It's said to involve authorities from Myanmar, China, Thailand, Japan, the United States, Canada and Taiwan.

But it faces a tough task ahead of it, with one investigator telling Reuters the syndicates's supply chain was so complex and expertly run it rivalled Apple's.

"In the Sam Gor syndicate, police face a nimble and elusive adversary," the report said, adding that Tse appeared to be unfazed by the investigation.

AFP is working with authorities across Asia, Europe and North America. Picture: AFP
AFP is working with authorities across Asia, Europe and North America. Picture: AFP

Methamphetamine - also known as speed, ice or crystal - is a synthetic drug that can lead to serious long-term physical and mental health problems, including psychosis.

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found its overall use was declining across Australia, but the rate of regular and dependent users was growing.

In total, 1.3 million Australians over the age of 14 said they had used the drug at least once, with 1.4 per cent saying they'd used in the last 12 months.

Of those, just over 20 per cent said they used the drug weekly or daily.

On Friday, a worldwide study of drug use found Adelaide had the highest level of methamphetamine use across more than 120 cities in 30 different countries.