A Chinese Canadian national suspected of leading a major drug syndicate in the Asia-Pacific region was extradited to Australia on Thursday, according to reports.
Tse Chi Lop, 59, the alleged leader of the Sam Gor syndicate — also known as The Company — was captured in January 2021 after landing in Amsterdam on a flight from Taiwan. Since then, he had fought Dutch authorities in court for nearly two years to avoid extradition to Australia, where he was wanted for trafficking $2.98 million worth of methamphetamine between 2012 and 2013.
Sam Gor is believed to have run a synthetic drug empire in the lawless jungles of Myanmar. As of 2018, the organization was reportedly earning between $8 billion and $17.7 billion per year.
The group is also accused of forging ties with casinos, motorcycle gangs, money launderers and corrupt senior government officials across Asia. Among Tse’s suspected customers was Hakan Ayik, currently Australia’s most wanted man presumed to be hiding in Turkey.
Tse allegedly conducted his illicit business from Hong Kong, Macao and Southeast Asia. His identity remained unknown until 2019 after Reuters published an investigative report that described him as “Asia’s El Chapo.”
Photos released by Australian police Thursday show Tse being escorted off a Melbourne airport in handcuffs. He then appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court through a video link from a local custody center.
“This arrest would be one of the most high-profile arrests in the history of the AFP [Australian Federal Police],” said AFP Assistant Commissioner Krissy Barrett. “His arrest today is a culmination of a long-term AFP investigation into a transnational organised crime syndicate.”
Tse has been charged with conspiracy to traffic commercial quantities of controlled drugs. He faces a sentence of life imprisonment.
In June, Tse’s alleged right-hand man Chung Chak Lee, 66, was extradited to Australia from Thailand. Lee is British Chinese.