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Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK


World: Americas

Vancouver drugs ring smashed

Most of the drugs were seized from a boat in Vancouver's port

Police have arrested 28 suspects and seized 54kg of heroin in a massive operation against a major international drugs ring operating out of the Canadian port of Vancouver.

The gang had been shipping heroin from southeast Asia to markets in Canada and the United States, in an operation so large that it could manipulate drug prices across North America at will.

"When you start dealing with heroin at the multikilogram level, you are dealing with the top echelon of heroin movement throughout the world," said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Patrick Convey.

The gang also dealt in extortion and credit card fraud on a global scale.

From Burma to Vancouver

Most of the suspects are from the Vancouver area, but the FBI has also charged gang members from as far afield as New York, Las Vegas and Puerto Rico.

Vancouver police were tipped off that a suspected gang leader living in the city was to be kidnapped or have his house fire-bombed, and used the information to uncover a wider gang network in a three-year investigation.

The gang's operations stretched from Burma to Vancouver's East Side, which has a notorious heroin problem.

Police say heroin was sometimes stockpiled in Canada in an effort to limit North American supplies and drive up prices.

Harbour seizure

Most of the Vancouver heroin seizure came from a Chinese vessel entering the city's harbour.

A million containers pass through the port every year, but police and customs officials only manage to search 3% of the vessels.

They have long complained that they are fighting a losing battle against the heroin trade.

According to the RCMP's Sergeant Convey, the suspects felt Vancouver was a safe place for business.

"I would have to say Vancouver is definitely one of the major areas for the distribution of heroin coming in from southeast Asia for the entire North American market," he said.

Canadian police said that smugglers liked to work from Canada because its drug laws carried lesser penalties than those in the United States.



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