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N. Korea Ship Left More Heroin, Says Australia

May 27, 2003|From Reuters

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian police said today that they had seized a second quantity of heroin that they believe was dropped ashore by a North Korean-owned ship whose crew was arrested last month on drug-smuggling charges.

Police said they had found 165 pounds of heroin buried west of Lorne, in the southern state of Victoria.

The find follows the April discovery of more than 100 pounds of heroin in Lorne and brings the estimated street value of the drugs believed to have originated from the North Korean ship to $145 million.

"At the time of the original seizure, we were aware that more heroin had possibly been offloaded during the landing," federal police spokesman Graham Ashton said in a statement.

The first seizure led to a four-day chase of the 4,000-ton freighter Pong Su by the Australian navy through stormy seas. It was eventually boarded and searched by special forces.

Crew members from the Tuvalu-registered vessel appeared in court last month, accused of aiding and abetting the import of heroin. They remain in custody.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said this month that he understood that there was a member of the Korean Workers' Party -- the only political party in communist North Korea -- on board the ship. The case has heightened concerns over North Korea's involvement in the international drug trade. North Korea has denied any link to the shipment.

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