Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - South African held for airport drug bust

South African held for airport drug bust

An image of a digital body scan showing multiple packages of cocaine in the body of a South African national who was caught by the authorities at Phnom Penh International Airport last week. Photo supplied
An image of a digital body scan showing multiple packages of cocaine in the body of a South African national who was caught by the authorities at Phnom Penh International Airport last week. Photo supplied

South African held for airport drug bust

Anti-drug police detained a South African man at Phnom Penh International Airport on Friday after a tip-off from crime agencies abroad led to the discovery of 100 plastic-wrapped capsules of cocaine in his stomach, the second significant drug bust at the airport in as many weeks.

Chief of the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Drug Department In Song said the suspect, Jacobus Dawie Botha, 30, had flown from Brazil via Dubai and Bangkok before arriving in Cambodia on a morning flight.

“We received the information from an anti-drug authority abroad. We are cooperating with each other,” said Song, who did not reveal with which countries’ authorities they were working.

“We suspected and scanned him and found cocaine in his stomach.”

A senior anti-drug officer yesterday suggested the bust could be linked to Mexican cartels, however, Song said the haul was unrelated to the 1.5 kilos of cocaine seized from a Venezuelan woman at the airport two weeks ago, though acknowledged the pair both flew from Brazil.

Song said the suspect was being held at the Anti-Drug Department for further questioning before being sent to the municipal court.

However, before the man can face a hearing, Song said officers will have to wait for him to pass the entire load.

“We have let him eat so that the drugs come out, one by one. We have medicine to make him deliver them,” he said, adding that in the first two days, 36 of the 100 that the man claimed to have swallowed had been retrieved. “We don’t know the total weight of the cocaine. When we collect it all, we will form a committee to cut it and measure it,” he said.

As with the bust earlier this month, Deputy National Police Commissioner Mok Chito said the drugs were likely destined for Thailand.

“Normally, they come in and take it by land to Thailand. They may think that it will be easier by land,” Chito said. “If he had gotten off the plane in Thailand, he would have been arrested, the same as here, because we inform each other and have skilled technical teams.”

Reached yesterday, Meas Virith, director of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said the large hauls were the work of organised cartels.

He added the “focus” was on the notorious Mexican Sinaloa cartel, whose former leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured in January and is awaiting extradition to the US.

“These groups transport drugs to Europe through ships, and they transport to Asia via plane, from Brazil,” Virith said.

“We are wondering why the airport in Brazil lets them leave from there. But after that, when they arrive in the United Arab Emirates, they change agents again. It’s an organised group, meaning they have agents everywhere, not only in Cambodia, but in all countries.”

MOST VIEWED

  • WHO: Covid in Cambodia goes into new phase

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia said that Cambodia has reached a new phase of the pandemic with “decreasing case numbers, high vaccination coverage and a more transmissible circulating variant threatening a hidden surge”. In a press release on September 6, the WHO said that

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • 'Pursue your goals, reach out to me': Young diplomat tapped as envoy to South Korea

    Chring Botum Rangsay was a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before being designated as the new Cambodian ambassador to South Korea. According to her official CV published on the foreign ministry’s website, she started her first government

  • International air visitor arrivals dip 93%

    The number of foreign tourists entering Cambodia through the Kingdom’s three international airports witnessed a sharp 92.5 per cent year-on-year decline in the first seven months of this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The airports handled 51,729 international tourists in the January-July period versus

  • School reopening ‘offers model for other sectors’

    World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Li Ailan said school reopening process should be used as a role model for reopening other sectors currently mothballed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Li strongly supports the government’s decision to reopen schools, saying it is a decision

  • Tourism concerns laid bare

    To ensure the success of plans to reopen the tourism market for international visitors, Cambodia must pay utmost attention to two primary determinants – the ongoing paradigm shift in domestic tourism services towards the ‘new normal’, and the factors influencing choices of destinations among foreign holidaymakers.