Taiwan police said they arrested five people in connection with a large shipment of illicit cannabis from Canada.
Taiwan’s National Police Agency (NPA) recently said it seized 456 kg of cannabis that entered the country from Canada hidden in a shipment of wood pellets, Taipei Times reports.
Although cannabis is legal in Canada, its export is highly regulated and must go through legal channels. Export to countries without a legal framework such as Taiwan is not allowed.
Police allege that a 48-year-old Taiwanese, Lin Chia-hung, has resided in Canada for 10 years. Chia-hung agreed to work with a Taiwanese criminal organization to export cannabis from Canada to Taiwan.
That organization bought a company that sells set-top boxes — cable or streaming boxes that traditionally go above a TV — and handed the responsibility to another Taiwanese, police said.
The company then imported wood pellets worth around C$6,000 in March, which cleared Taiwanese customs. A second separate shipment of wood pellets arrived on April 28 and concealed 409 bags of cannabis.
The second shipment aroused suspicion since the company was registered to sell “decoders”, which led to the search.
Police have traced the shipment and said they have arrested four other suspects in the past six months. Investigators have confirmed that Lin, who is still in Canada, is an accomplice.
Such cases have also occurred in the past.
In 2019, a Canadian national was arrested at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport after being found in possession of more than 30 kilograms of cannabis stored in two suitcases.
At the time, police and customs said they intended to step up inspection of passengers and baggage arriving from Canada, with several cases having been intercepted since cannabis was legalized in Canada in 2018.
In Taiwan, cannabis is classified as a category 2 drug along with substances such as methamphetamine. According to Article 4 of the Drug Risk Prevention Regulations, producing or transporting cannabis can result in a prison sentence of seven years to life.
Taiwan’s legislature passed a law earlier this year to reduce the penalty for growing cannabis for personal use from a minimum of five years’ imprisonment to one year, and a maximum of seven years.