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Captain of fishing boat sentenced to 12 years for smuggling ketamine

Over a tonne of ketamine was seized from the boat earlier this year

Officers boarding the Sheng Li Man

Officers boarding the Sheng Li Man (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The captain of a fishing boat involved in a huge ketamine smuggling operation in February has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his involvement in the crime.

Kaohsiung District prosecutors seized 1,289.6 kg of ketamine, worth over 3,300,000,000 NTD, from the boat on Feb. 2 in what was the largest recorded drug bust the nation has ever witnessed. The captain was detained by police and the five Indonesian crew members were arrested but later turned over to their hiring agency.

Judges pronounced that 63 year old Chen Tsai-shun (陳在順) met with a man nicknamed “Chang Tzu” on Jan. 2 at Donggang Harbor in Pingtung County to discuss the operation. Chen was to captain the boat for the illicit activity, after which he would immediately be paid 2,000,000 NTD.

Eager for the reward, Chen invited a man named Tian, unaware of the circumstances, to be his chief engineer, and hired five Indonesian fishermen to serve as crew members. The crew sailed into the South China Sea on Jan. 26 and met with an unidentified Chinese fishing boat.

126 black plastic bags were thrown from the Chinese fishing boat into the sea, and Chen directed his crew members, still unaware of the circumstances, to retrieve the bags and bring them aboard.

Unexpectedly, the rudder malfunctioned and the boat became unable to turn, after which Chen decided to contact friends via satellite phone for help towing the boat to the nearby Hsiaoliuchiu (小琉球) island.

Unbeknown to Chen, his boat, the Sheng Li Man, had been under surveillance for weeks. After both boats were towed back to a Kaohsiung pier by a Coast Guard Administration patrol boat, they were searched by police. Officers discovered the 126 bags of ketamine concealed under a freezer.

The government continues to implemented harsh penalties for drug possession and trafficking.