Indonesia arrests 4 foreigners for alleged drug smuggling

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities said Wednesday they have arrested four foreigners for allegedly trying to smuggle drugs into the country, including a Nigerian man who swallowed dozens of capsules filled with more than a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of methamphetamine.

A Brazilian and three Nigerians were arrested separately between January and March at Jakarta’s Sukarno-Hatta International Airport and several apartments in the capital, police spokesman Trunojudo Visnu Andika told a press conference in Jakarta.

Indonesia is a major drug-trafficking center in Southeast Asia and has strict drug laws, with convicted smugglers sometimes executed by firing squad.

Gatot Sugeng Wibowo, head of customs in Soekarno-Hatta, said officials arrested Malachi Onyekachukwu Umanu, a Nigerian who arrived at the airport from Ethiopia on March 5 without a suitcase or bag.

His suspicious behavior prompted officers to check his body and an X-ray found about 64 capsules in his stomach. Authorities were able to remove all the capsules, which were filled with a total of 1.07 kilograms (2.3 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine, from his stomach within three days, Wibowo said.

Customs officials at the airport also arrested a Brazilian, Gustavo Pinto da Silveira, shortly after he arrived from Rio de Janeiro in early January carrying a backpack, suitcase and surfboard. He initially refused to allow officials to test the liquid content of his luggage.

His resistance prompted officers to further investigate the substance, which was stored in six toilet bottles and had a strong smell. Laboratory tests confirmed the liquid to be 2 liters (67.6 oz) of liquid cocaine. Police said it was worth 20 billion rupees ($1.3 million).

Police also arrested two other Nigerian nationals along with an Indonesian man and woman who tried to smuggle 1.04 kilograms (2.2 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine from India, wrapped in lace, through a post office in Jakarta.

Mukti Juharsa, the capital’s police director of drug investigations, believes all the recent arrests are linked to an international syndicate that has been trying to distribute drugs in Jakarta.

“Foreigners should not try to import drugs into Indonesia. They will not escape arrest as customs at all international airports in Indonesia have been improved,” Juharsa said.

He said the suspects would be punished under Indonesia’s strict drug law, with a minimum of five years in prison and a potential death sentence, as both dealers and distributors of various types of drugs.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime says Indonesia is a major smuggling hub in part because international drug syndicates target the young population. There are 5.6 million drug users in the country of 270 million people, estimates Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency.

In May 2022, Indonesian navy officers made Indonesia’s largest cocaine seizure after finding plastic packages containing 179 kilograms (almost 400 pounds) of the drug floating in the sea near the port of Merak on the main island of Java. No arrests have been made.

Last July, police seized 48.47 kilograms (106.8 pounds) of cocaine in 43 packages covered with stickers bearing the Israeli flag and the Eiffel Tower floating in the sea near Anambas Island. And last December, eight similar packages containing 8.8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of cocaine were found by searchers for firewood on the neighboring island of Batam, near Singapore.

Most of the more than 150 people on death row in Indonesia have been convicted of drug offences. About a third of them are foreigners. The last executions in the country were in 2016, when an Indonesian and three foreigners were shot dead.

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