Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, was detained without incident at Schiphol Airport at the request of Australian police, which has led an worldwide investigation into his cartel, Dutch police spokesman Thomas Aling said on Saturday. "It's big and (has) been a long time coming", said Jeremy Douglas, the Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
The syndicate also manufactured heroin and has been a major player in the global market for MDMA, a euphoric party drug also known as ecstasy, police say. The AFP-led effort resulted in the arrest of 27 people for importing and trafficking "substantial quantities" of heroin and methamphetamine into Australia in 2013.
Following his arrest at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on Saturday, Australian police said they can seek Tse's extradition to Australia to face court.
Tse, 57, an ex-convict who formerly lived in Toronto, has moved between Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan in recent years, according to counter-narcotics officers from four countries and documents reviewed by Reuters. In wealth and ambition, he was sometimes compared to Pablo Escobar of Colombia or Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán of Mexico - brash, violent drug barons who each in their own time controlled us and European drug markets.
The arrest of Tse Chi Lop nearly a decade after that operation's launch is a major breakthrough for Australian authorities.
"He was already on the most-wanted list and he was detained based on intelligence we received", Dutch police spokesperson Thomas Aling said.
According to the AFP, the "syndicate targeted Australia over a number of years" by "importing and distributing large amounts of illicit narcotics, laundering the profits overseas, and living off the wealth obtained from crime". As per a 2019 Reuters investigation into Tse, his vast narcotics network made up to $17 billion in 2018 from methamphetamine sales alone, based on United Nations estimates.
The Dutch police arrested the drug lord on a warrant issued by the Australian police in 2019 against him.
The AFP also led an global investigation, dubbed Operation Kungur, into Tse and his syndicate that included about 20 agencies from more than a dozen countries.
According to court records, Tse Chi Lo was arraigned on drug-trafficking charges in the Eastern District Court of NY in 1998, and was found guilty of conspiracy to import heroin into America.
But it's not yet clear whether Tse's arrest will impact the Asia-Pacific drug trade in any way.
Sam Gor is believed to launder its billions in drug money through businesses springing up in Southeast Asia's Mekong region - including casinos, hotels and real estate.
Drug hauls feature nearly daily in headlines across the region, with traffickers finding more creative ways to ship out their illicit products.
Rather than serving the life sentence he faced, Tse Chi Lo was handed a nine-year punishment, most of which was spent at the federal correctional institution in Elkton, Ohio.