Simon Parry, Hong Kong
A 15-YEAR-OLD McDonald's worker and a 17-year-old trainee hairdresser caught with a $1million haul of drugs in a Hong Kong hotel had allegedly agreed to act as "mules" to carry the illicit cargo into Australia by swallowing heroin-filled condoms at $200 for each package.
The pair, Chris Vo, 15, and Rachel Ann Diaz, 17, now face 20 years in a Hong Kong prison.
Sources told The Australian Vo allegedly agreed to swallow "at least 20" condoms.
Vo was arrested in a Hong Kong hotel room last Tuesday with Diaz, who is also alleged to have been recruited as a drugs mule by the same Chinese-run syndicate based in Sydney and planned to swallow a similar number of heroin-filled condoms.
Diaz was being held yesterday in a high-security Hong Kong women's prison that houses prostitutes from China as well as some of the former British colony's most notorious female gangsters.
Drugs squad officers burst into the teenagers' room at the shabby Imperial Hotel in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui backpacker district, where they allegedly found dozens of condoms and glove fingers filled with heroin, with an estimated street value of $1million.
The pair had been due to board a flight back to Sydney from Hong Kong later that evening after spending a week in the three-star hotel, which was popular with backpackers and visitors from China.
A third Australian, 21-year-old Hutchison Tran, who is thought to have brought the heroin to their hotel room, was arrested with the two teenagers. He arrived in Hong Kong before the teenagers and is suspected of setting up the smuggling operation.
Hong Kong police, tipped off by their Sydney counterparts, launched a simultaneous raid on an apartment in nearby Yau Ma Tei where they arrested a fourth Australian, Qi Zhen Peng, 22, who was armed with an air pistol and a knife.
NSW police Southeast Asian Crime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Deborah Wallace, said police alerted Hong Kong authorities after learning that the teens were allegedly about to start swallowing 114 drug-filled condoms.
"There was a real risk to the teenagers if one of the packages burst," Superintendent Wallace said.
A kilogram of heroin with a Hong Kong street value of $1million costs less than $60,000 in Sydney.
Vo and Diaz are understood to have flown to Hong Kong alone, where they met Tran and Peng. They arrived in Hong Kong a week before their arrest.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said last night a bail application would be made on behalf of the two teenagers on Friday. He declined to say if the application would be for the teenagers to be allowed to return to Australia, saying: "Any bail conditions would have to be applied by the court."
He said the department was extending "the full range of consular services to the families involved".
At a court hearing last Friday, Vo and Tran were charged with trafficking a dangerous drug. They were remanded in custody until June 24.
Additional reporting: Jonathan Porter