Alleged Asian drug syndicate kingpin fighting extradition to Australia

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The alleged leader of an Asian drug syndicate who has been compared to Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is fighting extradition to Australia, saying would not get a fair trial there.

Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, was arrested in January at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport at the request of Australian police while in transit from Taiwan to Canada.

He has denied wrongdoing and is contesting extradition with his lawyer, arguing that Australian authorities essentially engineered his expulsion from Taiwan to Canada on a flight with a stopover in the Netherlands so he could be nabbed there.

While Australia has extradition treaties with both the Netherlands and Canada, Tse's lawyer argued in court on Tuesday that Dutch extradition policies were more advantageous for Australian law enforcement.

"If Australia was involved in inappropriately turning my client over to the Netherlands, his fair trial rights have already been violated," lawyer Andre Seebregts told Reuters after the hearing. He asked judges to investigate the circumstances of the arrest before deciding on extradition.

Prosecutors said the circumstances of Tse's expulsion from Taiwan were not relevant.

Australian investigators say Tse's organization dominates the $70 billion-a-year Asia-Pacific drug trade.

Jeremy Douglas, Southeast Asia and Pacific representative for the U.N. drugs agency UNODC, told Reuters in 2019 that “Tse Chi Lop is in the league of El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar,” referring to Latin America’s most notorious drug lords.

Tse, 57, spoke briefly in court to protest his innocence.

"Mass media are calling me a drug kingpin but that is not true," ANP news agency quoted him as telling the judges through interpreters. He added that he was scared Australian judges would be biased against him.

The Rotterdam court is expected on July 2 to rule on the extradition request or order additional investigations into the circumstances of Tse's arrest.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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