Pubdate: Thu, 21 Aug 2003
Source: Asian Pacific Post, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 The Asian Pacific Post.
Bookmark: (Heroin)


As investigators around the world try to figure out the connections and 
operations of a powerful Chinese crime cartel that was pumping heroin into 
the U.S. and Canada, troubling questions arise over the syndicate's links 
to one of India's top anti-corruption crusaders

Wang Zong Xiao, 46, a Californian businessman had left the Subway Cafe 
nightclub in Flushing, New York and walked toward his late-model Mercedes 
just after 3 a.m.

As he stopped at the curb and his 41-year-old female companion opened the 
trunk, two men, dressed all in black, stepped from the darkness and hacked 
him with machetes.

Wang fell, bleeding from stomach wounds and a severed artery in his leg.

More than six months later, the Jan. 14, 2003 killing in Queens remains 

Police believe that the murder is most probably linked to the punch that 
Wang had thrown at another patron of the cafe.

But they have not discounted another possible connection to the murder.

Wang, who was initially identified as Zong X., was the central figure in a 
notorious and botched international heroin-trafficking case.

It was a case that destroyed police cooperation between China and the 
United States.

Shanghai cops had arrested Wang in 1988 for trying to smuggle US$1 million 
worth of heroin into San Francisco in the bellies of dead koi, exotic 
ornamental goldfish.

U.S. Federal prosecutors dubbed it the Goldfish Case.

They brought Wang to the U.S. to be a star witness against three alleged 
U.S. conspirators.

It was the first time the U.S. and China cooperated on a drug prosecution.

It also backfired badly.

Wang got on the stand and sparked an international incident by testifying 
that police in China tortured him with a cattle prod and told him if he 
didn't lie on the stand he would be killed.

The testimony opened up a legal can of worms and a seven year judicial mess.

Cedric Chao, Wang's San Francisco attorney, discovered that prosecutors had 
squashed possible evidence of the torture to avoid jeopardizing their case.

A judge ruled in 1993 that prosecutors committed "clear, flagrant and 
shameful violations" of Wangs constitutional rights.

He was released in 1996, and an appeals court refused to send him back to 
China, saying it would mean his execution.

China refused to assist the United States in another major drug case for 
years, furious that who they determined to be a drug dealer was set free by 
the United States courts.

The three U.S. conspirators walked away with lesser convictions.

Over the years U.S. police cooperation with China would suffer because of 
the Goldfish case.

In September 2001, as relations improved, U.S. and China began working on 
busting one of the worlds largest heroin suppliers.

The case was picking up steam and the final pieces were coming together - 
coincidentally - about the same time Wang got killed.

The Untouchables

Kin-cheung Wong had a good thing going. His four-story gambling den and 
brothel called the Huamei Entertainment Company in Fuzhou was a 
money-spinner. He had the best prostitutes and mahjong tables, where the 
stakes routinely surpassed U.S. $100,000.

Wong, investigators said, was also the mastermind of a massive drug and 
people smuggling syndicate that had connections worldwide.

He did most of his planning and conducted his business meetings inside his 
personal steam bath to avoid detection.

According to the case assembled by government investigators, Wong nicknamed 
125 for his weight, ran a criminal organization called the Untouchables.

Using a phalanx of senior officials and contacts around the world, the gang 
came to be known as the Untouchables because of their ability to elude the 

His contacts included the former vice minister of police of Fujian who was 
sentenced for helping smugglers in 2001.

For the past three years the powerful crime cartel trucked heroin from the 
poppy fields of the Golden Triangle along the Thai-Burma border into 
China's notorious Fujian Province and then shipped the drug west to be sold 
on the streets of Vancouver, Toronto, New York and other North American cities.

Using underground banks in Hong Kong to launder the millions of dollars 
raised by the illicit trade, the gang had an international network of 
retail cells at the street level to distribute the heroin, which was being 
shipped in containers. (see archived story, Untouchables flooded Canada 
with heroin [2003-05-22],

Wong was famed for using sophisticated concealment methods. A 1988 load of 
heroin in Thailand, which he is believed to have organized had been 
secreted in bales of rubber and was discovered only when rain seeped in, 
causing a chemical reaction that revealed the contents.

Wong was arrested in 1989 and spent four years in U.S. federal detention 
following the seizure in Thailand. He was released in January 1994 and was 
deported to Hong Kong.

After that he set up his base of operations using his Huamei Entertainment 
company in the Fujian.

U.S. DEA and FBI agents began picking up intelligence about Wong again in 
early 2001.

According to court documents on June 22, 2001, one of Wong's distributors 
in New York provided a confidential FBI source with three-quarters of a 
pound of heroin in New York.

In September 2001, the DEA approached Chinas Public Security Ministry and 
asked for help. The Chinese agreed to a joint operation.

A month later, a confidential DEA source met with Wong in Fuzhou, the 
capital of Fujian province, to discuss another heroin deal.

This one, again for three-quarters of a pound, was delivered in December 
2001 on 53rd Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan, the court papers said.

By early 2002, drug agents from both U.S. and China decided they were 
tracking a major heroin supplier with high level contacts.

What ensued was a massive, extensive, time-consuming undercover operation 
that required tremendous resources and cooperation from the Chinese government.

A U.S. DEA source said Wong boasted all the time that he would only conduct 
deals in China because in China he was beyond the reach of American justice.

As Wong was being tracked over 20 months, U.S.undercover operatives and 
confidential sources arranged in China for four controlled purchases to 
occur in the United States.

U.S. investigators were convinced that Wong was planning a major shipment 
to the United States and this was what they wanted before moving in on him.

But even with widespread searches on containers arriving from China, 
nothing was found.

Officials believe they had missed it.

Without the big shipment, the Chinese needed to get Wong to commit a 
serious crime on Chinese soil to seal the case. He could not be extradited, 
because the United States and China have no extradition treaty.

The authorities needed a big case with Wong so that his partners in the 
U.S. could also be charged with serious offences.

To avoid the need to request material witnesses from China - like in the 
Goldfish case - U.S. undercover investigators needed to collect the 
evidence themselves, masquerading as drug traffickers in China and 
negotiating buys that would occur in the United States. This would give 
them enough evidence to charge people arrested in the United States with 
more serious crimes.

Then on May 16, Chinese police nabbed Wong with 77 pounds of heroin in a 
sting operation, the first time they could document his dealing the drug on 
Chinese soil, officials said.

Across the globe, drug agents in the United States, Canada and India made 
simultaneous arrests of 30 other suspects, dismantling a complete heroin 
trafficking network, detaining suppliers, traffickers and distributors, 
authorities reported.

Wong's arrest, law enforcement officers said, should mark the final chapter 
in the career of a major heroin trafficker. Possession of this much heroin 
in China with the intent to distribute is a crime punishable by death.

But law enforcement officials also said they hoped Wongs capture could lead 
to something more a breakthrough in the troubled history of U.S.- China 
legal cooperation.

The 20-month operation to dismantle Wongs alleged trafficking network was 
the most ambitious joint effort ever by the law enforcement agencies of the 
United States and China, law enforcement officials of both countries said.

Agents worked in numerous time zones, communicated in multiple languages 
and chased criminals with various nationalities and aliases, such as 
Cuttlefish, Four-eyes, Kitty, Lazy Man and 125 - Wong's nickname, a 
reference to his 125-kilogram (275-pound) weight.

At one point, a multinational group of officers huddled in a hotel room for 
10 hours, speaking Cantonese, Mandarin, Fukienese and English as they 
plotted strategy, a U.S. official said.

For the first time, the Chinese government allowed U.S. law enforcement 
agents to carry out an undercover operation on Chinese soil. And as the 
case reached its climax on May 16, Chinese and American agents were jointly 
running a command center when the controlled buy took place and Wong fell 
into a net that both sides had been weaving for almost two years.

"We fought shoulder to shoulder," Chen Cunyi, deputy director general of 
the Narcotics Control Bureau of Chinas Public Security Ministry told reporters,

"The cooperation from China was on a mega-scale," said James Tse, the 
senior DEA agent in China. "This case constitutes the most significant 
example of U.S.-China cooperation [against drug smuggling] to date," he 
said in an interview with a New York paper.

U.S. officials credited the Chinese with getting close enough to Wong to 
convince him that the deal for the 77 pounds of heroin would be safe. In 
the end, the official said, Wong's advisers persuaded him to do the deal.

"Basically it was greed," said Chen. "He thought he'd make big money. He 
watched things, he checked things out. He determined that hed be safe. He 
took a risk and made a deadly mistake."

The American Justice Department considered the case so important they 
fronted the Chinese government US$180,000.

Between May 16 and May 24, after Wong was captured, drug enforcement 
officers also conducted raids simultaneously in Calcutta in India, Fujian 
in China, Hong Kong, New York, Miami and Canada.

More than 30 people were arrested and charged.

While the case marks an end to the shadow cast by the Goldfish incident and 
a new beginning for international police cooperation many questions remain 
unanswered as investigators piece together the activities of the Untouchables.

One of the most troubling is the connection to Indias top anti-corruption 

Indiaa anti-crime crusader

Indian police were more than surprised when the Drug Enforcement Agency of 
the U.S. pinpointed the address of the clandestine drug lab.

The two-storey house called "Dzonga Gods" or Tibetian Gods was on the 
eastern fringes of teeming Calcutta in an area called Salt Lake.

What was alarming to India's Narcotics Control Bureau was that the house 
was owned by renowned anti-corruption crusader, Upen Biswas.

Biswas, a former senior director of India's Criminal Bureau of 
Investigation, who is more accustomed to taking down bad guys, including 
those in seats of power found himself on receiving end when heavily armed 
police raided his home on May 18.

At the house police found a makeshift drug lab on the ground floor.

Indian Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Netai Chandra Patra told reporters 
police had found a narcotics manufacturing unit and incriminating documents.

"No one, absolutely no one is above suspicion until the investigations are 
complete," Patra said after the raid.

Police also arrested five foreign nationals.

They are currently at Calcuttas Dum Dum Central Jail.

Of the five gang members, two are Chinese and three are from Myanmar. At 
least, 24 kg of ephedrine hydrochloride was seized.

Ephedrine hydrochloride is a controlled substance used for making banned 
drugs amphetamine and metamphetamine.

Biswas told Indian media the five foreigners were not his tenants and that 
another suspect S.N. Thanga, to whom a part of the house had been let out, 
was reported missing. A search is on for Thanga, who is believed to be the 
syndicate's point man in India.

Investigations also revealed that Biswas had returned a consignment for 
Thanga from Hong Kong that came to his residence on May 22 without 
informing the authorities.

The consignment weighing more than 200 kg, which was impounded by the 
Indian drug squad at the Calcutta airport, contained enough ephedrine 
hydrochloride to manufacture amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) tablets worth 
1 billion rupees (C$35 million).

Indian police said Thanga could be either Myanmarese or Chinese, have 
recovered fake passports and driving licences and also three mobile phones.

Calls had been made to and received from China, Singapore, Myanmar and in 
several places in India's northeastern region.

Investigations so far have revealed that the clandestine operations out of 
Biswas house were part of the Untouchables cartel.

One of the five suspects arrested is a cousin of a senior member of the 
cartel arrested in China.

Investigators also said that Kenny Mah Wah Wong, son of ring leader of the 
international 125 drug cartel Kin Cheung Wong, had come to Calcutta on 
April 16.

He was accompanied by another cartel member identified as Wah Wing Chan.

On August 2, 2003 a team of Chinese Anti-Narcotics officers together with 
U.S. DEA officers met with India's drug unit director-general M.K. Singh.

The 12 member team had interrogated the arrested suspects, took pictures at 
the Calcutta house and interviewed Biswas.

M.K. Singh told the Times of India: "We have been able to learn about their 
background and activities. A complete picture has emerged following the 
teams visit to Calcutta."

As for Biswas who denies any knowledge of the drug operations at his house, 
the Indian parliament cleared him of any wrongdoing.

But not everybody agreed with the ruling.

Opposition members walked out of Parliament.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom