Before he was sentenced to nine years in 1988 for importing heroin to the US, lawyers for Tse Chi Lop pleaded for leniency, saying he planned to open a restaurant when he got out. Instead, authorities say the Chinese-born Canadian citizen massively expanded his drug empire and became known as "Asia's El Chapo," though he kept a much lower profile than the Mexican drug kingpin, the New York Times reports. The 57-year-old was arrested at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on Friday as he prepared to board a flight to Canada. Tse, whose crime syndicate is known as "The Company," was arrested on an Interpol "Red Diffusion" request issued by police in Australia, where the syndicate is believed to be responsible for 70% of the illegal drugs entering the country, reports the BBC.
The Company, also known as "Sam Gor," or "Brother Number Three," one of Tse's nicknames, involved members of five triads and formed allegiances with organized crime groups in numerous countries. Investigators say the syndicate, which made an estimated $70 billion a year in the Asia-Pacific drug trade, specialized in crystal meth but also trafficked heroin and MDMA, reports Reuters. "The syndicate targeted Australia over a number of years, importing and distributing large amounts of illicit narcotics, laundering the profits overseas and living off the wealth obtained from crime," the Australian Federal Police said in a statement. Dutch police say Tse, who is believed to have spent most of the last few years in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, was arrested without incident and will likely be extradited to Australia after appearing before a judge. (Read more drug trafficking stories.)