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Monday October 27 11:08 AM EST

Chinese Drug Lords Now Australia 'Mr. Bigs'

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) - A handful of Chinese migrant drug lords based
in Sydney's Chinatown have replaced traditional Anglo-Australians as the
"Mr. Bigs" of crime, controlling a $2 billion a year heroin import trade,
authorities say.

An Australian police taskforce, the Asian Organized Crime Group (AOCG),
said on Monday that Australia's organized crime scene had undergone a
cultural revolution in the past decade.

The head of the AOCG, police superintendent Geoff Owens, told Reuters that
Anglo-Australians and Lebanese migrants had relinquished control of heroin
importation to a small group of ethnic Chinese.

"Now, they are content to let the Chinese criminal element bring it in --
it takes away the risk for these other groups," said Owens. "Once it is in,
it is then wholesaled to these groups for its distribution."

"I think basically it has been just a recognition that the ethnic Chinese
criminals control the production of the heroin in the Golden Triangle and
are able to control its overall distribution through the Asian region,"
Owens said.

"While many Anglo-Australian 'Mr. Bigs' still run other parts of the drug
trade, in the 1990s a small group of Chinese Australians have a strangehold
on heroin importation," said the Herald, citing a series of interviews with
senior police.

Police superintendent Owens said that while a handful of Chinese migrants
now controlled Australia's heroin importation, the criminal groups were not
structured like traditional Mafia-style crime families.

"It is a very fluid type operation," Owens said.

"You have a number of people around Chinatown who will become involved in a
shipment, but a lot of times these shipments are arranged overseas by
criminals and they will put this shipment together and people down here
will just broker it and take their cut."

Contrary to public perception, Sydney's Vietnamese enclave of Cabrammatta
in the city's west was not the center for heroin importation in Australia,
Owens said.

"Cabrammatta is the center for street level heroin distribution, but not
the overall wholesale distribution," he said.

"As far as the importation is concerned, it is still controlled by ethnic
Chinese criminals and their syndicates in Chinatown."

Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Palmer told the Herald
that 4,400 to 6,600 pounds of heroin were imported into Australia each

AOCG's Owens confirmed a similar estimate, but added: "The only thing you
can really be definite about is the amount you seize, but exactly how much
is coming into the country is very difficult to predict."

An AFP spokesman told Reuters on Monday that only 10 percent of the heroin
imported each year into Australia was ever seized.

"A figure of between 10 and 20 percent, for all countries, is accepted as
the level of interdiction for all drugs," said AFP spokesman Steve Jiggins.

Both the New South Wales state premier Bob Carr and police minister Paul
Whelan on Monday called on the national government to increase police
funding and powers to combat the new drug barons.

"I'm very disappointed that we're not closing in on the Mr. Bigs," Carr
told reporters.


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