The suspected ringleader of Asia's most notorious crime syndicate has been arrested in the Netherlands, reports said on Sunday.
Tse Chi Lop, one of the world's most wanted fugitives, is expected to be extradited after appearing before a judge, Dutch police spokesperson Thomas Aling said. Tse's arrest by national police took place without incident at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Authorities accuse the 56-year old billionaire - often compared to drug lords like Pablo Escobar or Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman - of running a syndicate that controls the $90 billion-a-year drug trade in the Asia-Pacific.
"He's already on the most-wanted list and he was detained based on intelligence we received," Aling said in remarks quoted by The Telegraph.
Tse has been named by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as the alleged leader of the Asian mega-cartel known as "Sam Gor" - or Brother Number Three in Cantonese - a major manufacturer and supplier of methamphetamines around the world.
The police believe the cartel is funneling tons of heroin, ketamine, and other illicit drugs to around a dozen countries from New Zealand to Japan. But methamphetamine is the group's main source of income.
The syndicate is suspected of concealing its drugs in packets of tea. Intelligence sources estimate the syndicate is responsible for up to 70% of all drugs entering Australia.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said Tse's arrest followed an operation that resulted in the arrest of 27 people for importing and trafficking substantial quantities of methamphetamine and heroin into Australia in 2013.
Tse has moved between Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan in recent years, based on counter-narcotics reports and documents previously obtained by Reuters.
A good volume of Asia's supply of meth comes from the so-called "Golden Triangle" border areas between Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and southwest China which produce unprecedented quantities of synthetic drugs into the world markets.
The syndicate has been linked with or directly involved in at least 13 cases of drug trafficking since January 2015, documents reviewed by Reuters show.
According to conservatively estimates by UNODC, the cartel's total meth sales in 2018 hit $8 billion.
Often protected by a guard of Thai kickboxers, Tse reportedly lost $66 million in one night at a Macau casino.
As part of the 2012-2013 raids across Melbourne, police seized $7 million worth of assets, including cash, casino chips, and jewelry.
Australia's attorney-general will begin preparing a formal extradition request for Tse to face trial.