Tse Chi Lop carries himself like a gentleman and looks like a bank manager. But he’s “the Jeff Bezos of the drug trade”, says Stephen Marche in Toronto Life. His meth, ketamine and heroin empire hauled in more than £15bn a year at its height, making him the world’s biggest drug dealer. Born in China in 1963, Tse moved to Toronto with his fiancé in the late 1980s and had two children. A decade of heroin dealing landed him in prison, and on his release in 2006, Tse realised cheap synthetic drugs such as meth were the future.
He formed Sam Gor with a partner (the name means “Third Brother” in Cantonese) and hit upon an irresistible idea: if a customer’s drugs shipment was seized, Sam Gor would replace it free of charge. Hong Kong’s triads and Australian biker gangs loved the service: a reliable supplier who took on much of the risk. “It’s like Amazon.”
By the late 2010s Sam Gor controlled 40%-70% of the £67bn Asian meths market, making Tse rich enough to gamble away £50m in one night at the tables in Macau. His downfall came in 2017, when Australian police busted a $1bn Sam Gor meth deal and realised he was involved. Knowing how much the shadowy group prized anonymity, the police leaked Tse’s identity to the press. The ploy worked. His network abandoned him and he was arrested in the Netherlands in January, while trying to flee back to Canada. He denies all charges and is fighting a legal battle to avoid extradition to Australia.
Tse’s genius was to exploit globalisation, making himself just “a node in the network”. Despite his downfall, Sam Gor is likely to continue undeterred, thanks to “one of capitalism’s grandest and most polite monsters”.
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