HONG KONG. — Officials at Hong Kong International Airport have uncovered 11kg of suspected cocaine hidden in the cushions of an electric wheelchair.

The haul, worth an estimated US$1.5m, was found when a 51-year-old man was going through customs clearance on Saturday.

The man, who arrived from the Caribbean country of Sint Maarten via Paris on Saturday, has been arrested.

He could face life in prison if found guilty of trafficking a dangerous drug.

According to customs officials, the suspect brought the wheelchair into the country as one of two pieces of checked baggage.

Further examination was ordered when staff became suspicious and they found evidence that its seat cushion and backrest had been re-stitched.

The man, who is not from Hong Kong and has mobility issues, reportedly told officials that he was the director of a car rental company and that the wheelchair had been loaned to him by a friend.

An investigation into the incident has been launched.

Customs officials said in response to the discovery that they would increase checks on visitors from “high-risk regions” to combat transnational drug trafficking activities.

According to their latest statistics, the number of cases detected in customs checks involving dangerous drugs in 2022 was 931, up from 906 the previous year. Some 178 people were arrested over related offences last year.

It is not the first time that drugs have been found hidden in a wheelchair at an airport. In November, officials in New York seized US$450,000-worth of cocaine found in the wheels of a woman’s wheelchair.

In September 2022, nearly US$1.6m — worth of cocaine was found stuffed into the upholstery of a motorised wheelchair in the Italian city of Milan. — BBC.

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