Stories from the Past - Series III

Lost in the Past: Early 1900’s – A Further Story

Amoy, September 25, 1922 ,(No. 50 Confidential.) … It appears that some time ago, more, at any rate, than three or four months, a consignment of morphia, smuggled from Germany overland to Vladiostok, arrived in Shanghai. The cost of the drug was 100,000 dollars and the owners are a combine consisting of M. T., Q. Z., Y. G. and T. C. The first three are Filipinos and Senators in the Philippine Islands ; the Fourth is a Chinese citizen. The leader in the combine is Q.Z., who has recently visited the United States of America as one of the delegates to negotiate independence for the Philippine Islands . The morphia was originally intended to be smuggled into the Philippine Islands , where the price is said to be about 2,000 dollars per 1b. as against 450 dollars per 1b. in Shanghai, but owing to strong political opposition to Q.Z. the risk at present considered too great and the morphie remains in Shanghai deposited in a foreign hotel s kept by a French citizen. … – Letter from the British Consul in Amoy to the British Legation, Peking [ Beijing ].1.

THIS confidential communication cites the source as an informant who obtained the information from a friend to whom the Chinese citizen named owes “a considerable sum of money”. The same person was stated to be in a similar difficulties with an American-Japanese citizen resident in Manila, to whom he likewise owed a money in connection with a deal in rice (see paragraph below on China Daily News). While available information would not allow independent verification of the statement made, it at least shows that different nationals of a number of countries were involved in just one case of drug smuggling.

What complicated the matter further was the fact that there were numerous source countries from which drugs (opium, morphine, heroin or cocaine) were obtained and eventually smuggled to China . For instance, upon receipt of an inquiry from the United Kingdom , which had been concerned with the discrepancies between its export data and Japan ’s import figures, the Japanese authorities cited nine countries as the exporters of the above drugs to Japan in 1921 alone.2. Furthermore, transhipment was common and, therefore, those exporting countries were often not the original source countries, making it difficult to identify the actual sources of diversion into illicit traffic.

1. United Kingdom Public Record Office, [F 3548/504/10] Enclosure 1 in No. 1, F.O.371 8026, no. 52.

2. United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Turkey and the United States. Letter, dated 7 October 1922, from the Director of the Commercial Bureau, Japan, to the British Embassy. Ibid no.58.

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