Taiwanese authorities have uncovered the island’s largest case of drug transshipment in containers after 180 tonnes of kratom were discovered in seven containers awaiting transshipment in Kaohsiung port.

The cargoes, which arrived from Indonesia’s Tanjong Priok port, were bound for Los Angeles port in the United States.

Kratom is used to treat muscle pain, cramps and diarrhea. The drug is legal in Indonesia and some parts of the US, but has been a controlled drug in Taiwan since 2019, as it is addictive.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau ordered the interception of the shipment on 15 August, nearly four months after being tipped off by their US counterparts in April.

Three containers were found to have 1,080 boxes of kratom each, two containers had 1,125 boxes of kratom, while the other two containers had 1,395 boxes and 650 boxes of the drug.

Initially, two containers were seized, while the other four boxes were singled out and searched after a check showed these had also arrived from Tanjong Priok and were to be transshipped to Los Angeles.

US authorities informed their Taiwanese counterparts that a kratom shipment would be transiting through Kaohsiung, and the haul has a street value of TW$36.3 billion (US$1.14 billion). No arrests have been made, since the containers were transshipments, but the seized drugs will be destroyed.

Taiwanese premier Chen Chian-jen, who met with the investigation team after the seizure, said that the crackdown has prevented drugs from being smuggled into the island and stopped Taiwan from becoming a drug transit centre.

The confiscation of the kratom-laden containers came days after Dutch customs officers seized 8 tonnes of cocaine from a Maersk container ship docked in Rotterdam port, making it the largest drug haul in the port. Concealed in 8,064 one-kilo packages under a consignment of bananas, the drugs, which had a street value of EUR 600 million (US$653 million), arrived from Ecuador via Panama.

Martina Li
Asia Correspondent

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