Malaysia Announces Nation's Biggest Drug Bust This Year

Ali Nufael
Kuala Lumpur
2018-08-23
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180823-MY-bust-620.jpg Drugs valued at U.S. $6.3 million packed as tea from China is displayed for reporters in the northern state of Penang, Aug. 23, 2018.
Courtesy Penang Police Department

Updated at 8:16 a.m. ET on 2018-08-24

Malaysian police on Thursday announced the nation’s largest drug bust this year after confiscating 500 kg (1,100 pounds) of suspected methamphetamine and ecstasy pills in anti-narcotics operations that took place days after authorities in neighboring Thailand made a similar major seizure.

The drugs valued at 26.1 million ringgit ($6.3 million) were targeted for delivery in Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand and Indonesia, according to Kang Chez Chiang, deputy director Bukit Aman Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department.

“Thanks to our counterparts in Thailand and other countries, we managed to cripple this syndicate and make the biggest bust this year,” he said. “Such strong cooperation is needed to ensure that our country does not become a drug haven or abused as a transit point.”

Some of the drugs were disguised in packages labeled as tea from China, but Kang told reporters that many of the narcotics came from syndicates operating in the Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Mekong River.

Kang told BenarNews that four men, 35 to 59 years old and believed to be members of a drug-trafficking syndicate, were captured in raids in Bayan Baru, Jelutong and Gelugor in the northern state of Penang on Tuesday. Police also seized three vehicles, cash, jewelry and a watch valued at 147,000 ringgit ($35,778).

The four men had previous drug-related criminal records, Kang said.

Since January, Malaysian authorities have arrested 104,384 people for their suspected involvement in drugs and seized property valued at 47.62 million ringgit ($11.6 million) on suspicion that they were purchased with proceeds from drugs and other crimes, Kang said.

He told BenarNews that since early this year, officers have confiscated drugs valued at 127.8 million ringgit ($31 million).

“Those arrested were from various backgrounds, with locals making the highest number of people arrested, followed by foreigners,” he said.

Crime analyst Kamal Affendi Hashim lauded police for their successes, but said that as long as there is a demand for drugs someone will figure out how to supply.

“It shows that the cops are serious in combating drug-related cases, but it won’t end here,” he said.

On Wednesday, Thai police reported seizing more than 14 million methamphetamine pills valued at 1.48 billion baht (184.68 million ringgit or $45 million) bound for Malaysia and other countries in what they called that nation’s largest-ever bust.

Thai police said they arrested three suspects and seized the drugs in Ayutthaya province, north of Bangkok, on Saturday.

In a report published in May, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the production and trafficking of meth in Southeast Asia has reached “alarming levels.” It said much of the meth produced in the region comes from lawless parts of Myanmar, in particular the Shan state.

Last week, a Thai court sentenced a Malaysian-born drug lord known as the “Iceman” to death after he was convicted of running a narcotics network.

Tun Hung Seong, who was arrested in April 2017, had hired a man to smuggle almost 300 kg (660 pounds) of crystal meth through the Deep South, according to media reports.

Wilawan Watcharasakwet from Bangkok contributed to this story.

Updated to correct an error on Tun Hung Seong's sentencing. Under Thai law, prisoners who have been sentenced to death can be executed by lethal injection.

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