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The Canadian Border Services Agency and the RCMP in B.C. have made what is believed to be the biggest bust of the hallucinogenic tranquillizer ketamine in Canadian history.

The narcotic, which police said is used as a date-rape drug and as an ingredient in ecstasy, was discovered Dec. 7 in a shipment that had arrived in Vancouver by ship from Hong Kong, RCMP spokesman Const. Michael McLaughlin said in a release Wednesday.

Documentation accompanying the shipment identified the goods as 402 cartons of coffee mugs. But when CBSA officers examined the six-metre-long shipping container, they noticed discrepancies in the X-ray images, McLaughlin said.

He said a full examination of the container found 318 cartons of coffee mugs and 84 boxes that contained both coffee mugs and vacuum-sealed bags containing more than 1,003 kilograms of a white crystalline powder identified as ketamine.

Drug shipment valued at $15M

Tests performed by border services officers indicated that the bags contained ketamine hydrochloride. A total of 1003.9 kilograms of ketamine was seized, said McLaughlin.

The seizure puts a big dent in the trafficking of the drug, according to RCMP Supt. Brian Cantera.

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This shipping container was supposed to contain boxes of coffee mugs but also had more than 1,000 kilos of the drug ketamine, police say. ((RCMP))

"The more than 1,000 kilograms here that has been seized represents more than one million doses," said Cantera. "This seizure represents more than $15 million and that is clearly taken out of the profits of drug traffickers."

McLaughlin said three of the accused, including Tak Ming Chan, 53, Yiu Ming Kwok, 58, and Wing Kee Ng, 58, are Chinese nationals and have been remanded until Feb. 8. All three face charges of importing a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Also in custody and charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking are Hoi Sing Lai, 54, and Hin Cheung Lau, 42, of Vancouver.

A number of rifles and a handgun also were found during the arrests.

Last year, 1,800 kilograms of ketamine was seized in B.C.