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‘DEA tip’ leads to coke bust at Phnom Penh airport

Bags of cocaine are weighed at the Phnom Penh International Airport on Sunday after they were seized from a man who had travelled from Brazil. National Police
Bags of cocaine are weighed at the Phnom Penh International Airport on Sunday after they were seized from a man who had travelled from Brazil. National Police

‘DEA tip’ leads to coke bust at Phnom Penh airport

A man was arrested while attempting to smuggle nearly 5 kilograms of cocaine through Phnom Penh International Airport on Sunday, according to police, who said they were acting on a tip from the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Deputy National Police Commissioner Mok Chito said Romanian national Varadi Adrian-Calin, 35, had smuggled the drugs from Colombia to Brazil before coming to Cambodia.

“The suspect was monitored after we received information from the [DEA],” Chito said yesterday. “If we did not have the information from the DEA, we could not have caught him.”

US authorities could not be reached to confirm their role in the arrest.

Chito said the suspect had hidden the cocaine in 20 plastic bags among the clothes in his suitcase. “The suspect planned to deliver the drugs to somebody in Phnom Penh to be transferred to Thailand,” he said.

Police also on Sunday arrested 40-year-old Nigerian national Ibe Chukwuemeka, who they believe was the intended recipient of the cocaine. Chito said the suspect allegedly planned to smuggle the drugs to Thailand for sale there.

“I guess there is no market for cocaine in Cambodia,” Chito said, adding that the suspects would likely be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court today.

The arrests were made by the anti-drug department in conjunction with customs police. Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said Cambodia regularly exchanged information with US authorities when drugs were passing through the country.

“The American authorities have given us information in order for us to arrest ‘big fish’ smugglers,” Vyrith said. “We always help and support each other to combat drug smuggling.”

Sunday’s 5-kilo haul is significantly larger than the Kingdom’s most recent cocaine bust, which saw two Nigerian nationals arrested for allegedly smuggling 1.27kg of cocaine by ingesting it in baggies.

While the 2016 UN World Drug Report states that crystallised methamphetamines are the “primary drug of concern” in Cambodia, it notes that cocaine use is on the rise in Asia.