By David Amoruso for Gangsters Inc.
The world is a big place. While everyone was focusing on the narco kingpins in the Americas, a powerful Triad boss was operating in the shadows, organizing the Asian drug trade under his rule, creating a $8 billion-a-year narcotics empire. The name of this criminal mastermind? Tse Chi Lop.
Born in China’s Guangdong province, Tse Chi Lop would allegedly join the local Triad called the Big Circle Gang. Criminality is always a shaky life, but under the communist rulers, the stakes were higher and much more deadly. Many Triad members decided to move their operations from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong, which fell under British rule and functioned as a democracy. There, the gangsters were able to expand their operations. Tse was among them.
Linking the Golden Triangle and North America
The Triads, however, were always looking for greener pasture. In 1988 Tse moved to Canada where he became a citizen. In the following years, he collected thousands of airmiles as he traveled between North America and Asia, setting up a pipeline which smuggled heroin from the Golden Triangle into Canada and the United States.
His lucrative route brought him to the attention of U.S. authorities. They busted his operation in 1998 after which he was found guilty of importing heroin into the United States. He was looking at a lengthy prison sentence, but managed to sway the judge to go easy on him: He got a 9-year sentence and was released in 2006.
Guaranteeing drug shipments
After that he did what so many crime bosses who have tasted enormous riches and god-like power do: He went straight back to his old life. This time, he made some changes to his way of doing business. He would guarantee the delivery of drugs. If a shipment was lost or intercepted by police, Tse would send another load.
It sounds unbelievable, but Australian police discovered Tse’s way of doing business when they were tapping the phone of one of his drug contacts there. After one shipment was caught by police, Tse would send in another one. But when two more were seized, the contact was called in by his bosses in Hong Kong. While police cameras were following the drug trafficker, they saw him meet with Tse and another man.
This proved not only Tse’s new way of running drug shipments, but also that he was back in the game. Why wouldn’t he be? Life was treating him good, police found out when they began tailing him after his meeting with the Australian drug distributor.
Living the high life
Tse lived the high life, hosting big birthday bashes at luxurious resorts or 5-star hotels, traveling the globe in private jets, and betting huge amounts in Asia’s many casinos. He is rumored to have lost as much as $66 million dollars in one night of gambling debauchery.
The life isn’t all fun and games of course, there are many threats. That is why Tse walked around with a large group of bodyguards, which would consist of eight men and rotate after various shifts to maintain his security at the highest level.
Five Triads unite and form The Company
It was befitting the boss he had become. He was listed as one of 19 leaders of the international drug trafficking cartel known as “Sam Gor” or “The Company”. This cartel is comprised of five Triads - 14K, Wo Shing Wo, Sun Yee On, the Big Circle Gang, and the Bamboo Union – who decided to work together in unison to reap maximum profits from the drug trade.
Sam Gor traffics tons of methamphetamine, heroin, and ketamine to numerous countries throughout Asia. It supplies Yakuza Clans in Japan and outlaw biker gangs in Australia and New Zealand. Meth has become its biggest moneymaker. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Tse’s organization made $8 billion a year in revenue from meth in 2018. A modest estimate, it said, since it claimed revenue could be as high as $17.7 billion.
These kind of numbers squarely placed Tse on top of many law enforcement lists, including the DEA, which said Tse was “believed to be” the leader of Sam Gor, while police in Taiwan named him the organization’s “Multinational CEO”. The media caught on quickly thereafter. In a big exposé Reuters profiled the relative unknown drug lord, calling him Asia’s El Chapo.
Tse’s time of working in the shadows has come to an end. The spotlight shines brightly now and the heat is on.
UPDATE JANUARY 23, 2020: On January 22, 2020, Tse Chi Lop was arrested at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Dutch police reported today. The 56-year-old was on his way to Canada. He was apprehended at the request of Australian police and will now face extradition to that country.
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