Updated at 7:24 a.m. ET on 2016-04-21
Malaysian police said Wednesday they had dismantled a local drug smuggling syndicate with a link to India and seized the liquid equivalent of 226 kilos (498 pounds) of methamphetamine – one of the biggest narcotics hauls this year on home soil.
The meth haul with an estimated street value of 36 million ringgit (U.S. $9.3 million) was confiscated as part of police raids mounted in Perak and Selangor states on Tuesday, during which 10 ethnic Tamil Malaysian suspects were arrested, Malaysian Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference at police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
Officials said the total amount of meth was enough to supply 12 million drug users in Malaysia, which has strict laws against narcotics trafficking and consumption.
“From January to date, the total of value of drug seizures in the country is 65.64 million ringgit [U.S. $17 million] from synthetic drugs to more traditional drugs [like] marijuana and heroin. Properties seized related to narcotics have reached the value of 38 million ringgit [U.S. $9.8 million],” Khalid told BenarNews.
Since the start of the year, police have arrested 63,382 people on suspicion of drug-related offenses, including 6,352 suspected dealers, 14,475 people caught holding illegal drugs, and 42,555 testing positive for narcotics use through drug screens, the police chief added.
Police took down the drug syndicate after months of intelligence gathering and surveillance by members of the Special Tactical Intelligence Narcotics Group (STING), a unit of the police department’s narcotics bureau that received help through tips from law-abiding citizens, Khalid said.
The 10 suspects, including a chemist, were arrested in police raids at a store in Hutan Melintang, Perak, and two drug processing labs in Shah Alam, Selangor, according to police.
Officers also seized 2.83 million ringgit (U.S. $735,000) in cash, 78,000 Indian rupees (4,600 ringgit), a pistol and a magazine, 38 bullets, jewelry, 12 cars and two motorcycles, Khalid told reporters.
Police also seized 150 synthetic drug pills, 35 kilos (77 pounds) of ephedrine powder and meth-making chemicals including acetone, toluene, red phosphorus and caustic soda, as well as lab equipment.
The syndicate was masterminded by citizens, and the meth was meant to be sold on the local market, according to Khalid.
The haul included 752 kilos (1658 pounds) of meth in its liquid form, which could have been processed into 226 kilos (498 pounds) of “marketable meth,” Khalid said.
Another 13 kilos (28.6 pounds) of crystal meth – otherwise known as Ice – was recovered in its crystal form along with raw materials for making drugs that were smuggled in from India, he added.
Tuesday’s drug bust comes weeks after authorities in neighboring Thailand made two major drug busts involving Malaysian suspects who were allegedly trying to smuggle crystal meth into Malaysia.
On March 30, Thailand charged two Malaysian men on suspicion of trying to smuggle 282 kilos (621 pounds) of meth across the border by car.
Six days earlier, Thai police announced the arrests of 15 Malaysian suspects in a separate case that involved the smuggling of 226 kilos (498 pounds) of meth and eight kilos (17.6 pounds) of heroin aboard trains bound for the Padang Besar, a town on the Malaysian border.