By Stephanie van den Berg
ROTTERDAM (Reuters) -A Dutch court on Friday approved an Australian request to hand over the alleged leader of an Asian drug syndicate who has been compared to Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
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.
The defence said it would appeal, and the matter will be decided by the Dutch Supreme Court. A final decision on extradition will be taken by the Dutch government.
Tse, who is alleged to have led a drug syndicate dominant in the Asia-Pacific crystal methamphetamine trade, says he is not a drug kingpin.
He has denied wrongdoing and contested his arrest, saying Australian authorities in effect engineered his expulsion from Taiwan to Canada on a flight with a stopover in Amsterdam so that he could be detained in the Netherlands, which has a more favourable extradition treaty with Australia.
Tse did not appear in court. He remains in a high-security prison while the appeal is pending.
“The court ruled today that if there is a problem with this extradition it will be taken care of in Australia itself,” Tse’s lawyer, Andre Seebregts, told Reuters. “We will now be going to the supreme court in the Netherlands to take our case there.”
It is not clear when the supreme court will hear the appeal. Any handover would be expected to take months.
Judges urged the justice minister, who will have the final say if the Supreme Court approves extradition, to seek assurances from Australia that Tse would not be given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
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 (Latin American drug lords) El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar.”
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Writing by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Jon Boyle and Timothy Heritage)