SYDNEY, Australia — Tse Chi Lop is often compared to Mexico’s most famous drug lords for his alleged ability to move billions of dollars’ worth of methamphetamine into countries across Asia while living discreetly and avoiding law enforcement.
But last week, his quiet, under-the-radar life as a global drug trafficker was unceremoniously pulled into view.
Acting on an Interpol notice from the Australian Federal Police, the Dutch authorities arrested Mr. Tse at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on Friday as he prepared to board a flight to Canada.
The Australian authorities confirmed on Sunday that Mr. Tse — who was born in China but moved to Canada in the 1980s — would soon be extradited to face charges connected to allegations that he leads an international drug syndicate known as The Company, or Sam Gor.
The United Nations has reported that The Company makes as much as $17 billion a year moving drugs to Japan, New Zealand and many other countries, relying on supply and distribution networks that cross the Asia-Pacific region. But no nation has tracked Mr. Tse as closely as Australia, and for good reason: The syndicate he runs is believed to be responsible for 70 percent of the illegal drugs that reach Australia, where meth in particular has ravaged rural areas.
“The syndicate targeted Australia over a number of years, importing and distributing large amounts of illicit narcotics, laundering the profits overseas and living off the wealth obtained from crime,” the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.
In the lead-up to his arrest, Mr. Tse developed a reputation for building a stable, illicit drug distribution network while staying largely out of sight. In wealth and ambition, he was sometimes compared to Pablo Escobar of Colombia or Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán of Mexico — brash, violent drug barons who each in their own time controlled American and European drug markets.
Mr. Tse’s style and public persona, at least what is known of it, has been far more demure. And until Friday, that approach seemed to work.