Tainan District Prosecutors Office, Anping District, Tainan City, Taiwan. Photo: Google Maps

A 50-year-old Taiwanese man surnamed Wong who was the alleged mastermind behind the smuggling of NT$300 million worth of marijuana into Taiwan from mainland China on a fishing vessel could be looking at a life sentence, a Tainan court heard on Monday.

The court was told that at 3:30pm on July 11, a fishing boat operated by brothers surnamed Xia, of which the elder brother was the captain while the younger one was the owner, and a crew of three Indonesians departed from a harbor at Qimei, Penghu county, on the Taiwan Strait, China Daily News reported.

The Taiwanese vessel allegedly met up with another boat from Xiamen on the mainland during the early hours of July 12. Police say they found that 271 kilograms of cannabis buds, with a market value of up to NT$300 million (US$10 million), had been moved on to the Xias’ boat and hidden in secret chambers at the front and rear underneath the deck.

According to a report by The Liberty Times, at 8:35pm on July 12, the boat allegedly arrived at Anping Harbor, Tainan, where the Xia brothers were prepared to meet up with Wong, but he arranged another date for the handling of the shipment because the police had been watching  him.

The court heard that Wong had reached an agreement with the Xia brothers on July 10 to pay them NT$1.125 million for the successful shipment of the illegal cannabis buds. The brothers allegedly accepted NT$100,000 in advance to enter the deal.

Given the large quantity of the illegal drugs, Wong could be facing a life sentence if convicted, while the elder Xia may face 18 years in jail and his younger brother 16 years. The three Indonesian fishermen are facing 15-year jail terms.