Malaysian police seized more than 12 tons of cocaine mixed in with a shipment of charcoal during a raid in Penang state, Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador told reporters Friday, calling it the country’s largest drug bust.
Hamid said a team of officers found the cocaine, valued at 2.4 billion ringgit (U.S. $574.8 million) and charcoal stored in three containers as part of a consignment brought into Malaysia through Penang’s Butterworth Port on Sept. 10.
The cocaine’s total value was based on street prices of about 200,000 ringgit ($47,897) per kilogram, and it was smuggled in with about 50 tons of charcoal in an effort to mask the drug’s scent, the police chief said.
“We recently identified an international drug syndicate involved in smuggling cocaine using Malaysia as its transit point,” Hamid said. “They tried to deceive authorities by mixing the drugs with charcoal which made it hard to be traced using the conventional methods and technology.”
He said police arrested a 29-year-old local man, but did not release other details of the investigation. The suspect was remanded for 14 days until Sept. 23 under the Dangerous Drugs Act and could face a death sentence if convicted.
The charcoal masked the scent from drug-sniffing dogs, according to officials who said they used a special machine to detect the cocaine. They did not release the name of the machine or details about how it works.
Hamid said this was the second major drug bust in Malaysia in the last month. Police in Selangor state seized 3.2 tons of cocaine valued at 674 million ringgit ($161.4 million) on Aug. 18. He said authorities were investigating to determine if the two cases were linked.
Prior to the two major busts, Hamid said Malaysian police had seized drugs valued at 285.92 million ringgit ($68.48 million) in 2019.
Geshina A. Mat Saat, a Malaysian University of Science criminologist, said the seizures showed that efforts by Malaysian authorities had borne fruit.
“Due to increased surveillance and crime prevention strategies in place, more illegal products are being discovered or traced to common trade routes,” she told BenarNews.
“So it is likely that increases in discoveries of illegal products are due to a rise in surveillance and crime prevention strategies rather than an actual increased demand for products in the region. Nonetheless, some illegal products still slip through customs,” she said.