Kota Kinabalu - Brunei Darussalam is perhaps earning itself an undesirable reputation as a transit point for drug smuggling, as numerous successful busts that have been made public over the past few months have shown that some foreigners take advantage of Brunei's convenient location as a layover point as they make their way to their intended destinations.
Malaysia's Bernama reported yesterday that a Pakistani man was detained by the Sabah Customs Department on November 26 as he attempted to smuggle in 1.5 kilogrammes of methamphetamine, or syabu, and it is believed that he made his way to Kota Kinabalu via Brunei - making this case the third such incident linking the Sultanate over the past three months.
It was stated by Sabah Customs Director, Dr Janathan Kandok, that a plastic bag containing two plastic packets of an Indonesian brand of sugar were found among clothes and other items in the suspect's luggage and investigations revealed that the plastic packets contained a coarse powder like sugar believed to be syabu.
Dr Kandok said the suspect, married to a Sabahan, frequently travelled abroad.
He said the suspect was being remanded for seven days to facilitate investigation under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act which provides for the death sentence upon conviction.
"This is the second case this year involving an attempt to smuggle drugs through our airport, and it occurred within a week of the first case," he said.
Dr Kandok said the first case involved an attempt to smuggle in four kilogrammes of syabu worth RM1 million last Sunday. The case is still under investigation and will be brought to court soon, he added.
Many cases of individuals getting caught with significant amounts of illegal drugs have been recorded in Brunei with the first being in March this year that was described as being one of "the country's largest drug haul" for the year 2012 amounting to almost $3 million. It involved a foreign woman believed to be a drug mule working for an international drug syndicate.
But starting September, at least one case every month involving drugs was reported, with the second incident being that of a Kenyan woman caught with over 3.67 kilogrammes of syabu at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) as she arrived on board a Royal Brunei flight from the Sultanate.
Last month, another Kenyan woman who is currently being tried in Brunei's courts, was also discovered to have in her possession of crystalline substance weighing 4.41 kilogrammes at the Brunei International Airport (BIA) as she was making her way to KKIA
About a year ago in September, the Borneo Bulletin published a story in relation to international drug syndicates, which authorities believed were operating in the Sultanate following the seizure of 5.06 kilogrammes of methamphetamine from a Kenyan woman who left the BIA premises without any drugs, stayed a night in Brunei and flew off to Kota Kinabalu the next day where she was caught.
These syndicates are well-known throughout the world and typically hire mules to deliver their consignment across different continents at the risk of getting caught and facing death penalties mostly due to financial pressure or with the promise of romance as per the experience of a few Bruneian women who are currently serving time overseas.
Authorities in the region dealing with drugs will have their work cut out for them in the coming years as leaders of the 10-member Asean states have declared a Drug-Free Asean by the year 2015 in April this year noting that such an endeavour "can be achieved by successfully and effectively controlling illicit drug activities and mitigating their negative consequences to society, primarily on significant and sustainable reduction".
The leaders, according to the declaration, have vowed to "intensify concerted efforts to realise the vision and goal of a drug-free Asean Community by 2015 as a high-priority agenda of Asean by tasking relevant ministers to speed up the implementation of the Asean work plan on Combating Illicit Drug Production, Trafficking and Use 2009-2015 and the Roadmap for an Asean Community (2009-2015) on Drug-Free Asean by 2015".--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin