Jakarta police foil sale of marijuana through Instagram

JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - As law enforcers turn up the heat on drug traffickers, the latter are getting more creative in selling their products.

Avoiding risky face-to-face transactions, some drug dealers use social media to promote their products to customers, and deliver the orders by ojek (motorcycle taxi) services to cover their tracks.

This modus operandi was discovered in March, when North Jakarta police arrested two men in Cakung, East Jakarta, for allegedly selling a synthetic cannabinoid-type of drug called gorilla tobacco through popular photosharing platform Instagram. The two men reportedly sent the drugs to their customers by using an app-based ojek delivery service.

The same scheme was discovered recently as Jakarta police investigators arrested three people who allegedly sold marijuana liquid for vaping, through Instagram. Police arrested Martino Saputra, Gantis Watimuri and Kurniawan Hidayat for allegedly selling liquid containing 5-Fluoro ADB, a new type of drug derived from marijuana.

The drug was stronger than marijuana, and excessive use of it could cause nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and even death, said Adjunct Senior Commissioner Dony Alexander, who heads a unit at the Jakarta police's narcotics division.

Using an account under the name "Mamen Liq," the suspects followed Instagram accounts of consumers of vaporiser substances.

"The suspects sent private chat messages to the consumers and offered them the liquid, called 'Liquid High'," he said recently.

The suspects allegedly sold the liquid in 60 millilitre bottles for 3 million rupiah (S$306) or 5ml bottles for 300,000 rupiah.

After posing as buyers, investigators arrested the suspects and seized a total of 210 ml of the illegal liquid.

Police first arrested Martino, who allegedly worked as an app-based ojek courier on July 6. Based on Martino's information, police then moved to arrest Gantes and Kurniawan. Police were still on the hunt for another person identified as K, who allegedly distributed the liquid, Mr Dony said.

Based on the ongoing investigation, the suspects had been selling the drug for the past two months. They had up to 30 customers, ranging from 18 to 25 years old.

"Most of the consumers use fake accounts, so we need more time to track them down," Mr Doni said.

Police also found 50 million rupiah in Kurniawan's bank account, money allegedly earned from selling the drug.

Police claimed the suspects had made more than 400 million rupiah since they started operating.

No information has been provided yet on the origin of the drug. However, Mr Dony said the ingredients could have been imported.

The police would team up with its cybercrime unit to track down more people selling the drug online, he added.

National Narcotics Agency (BNN) spokesman Senior Commissioner Sulistiyandriatmoko said the trend of using social media platforms to sell drugs and then deliver them via app-based ojek services had begun in January this year.

In March, the BNN had seized 41 litres of vaping liquid containing cannabis from a suspect in South Tangerang, which was going to be sold online, Mr Sulistiyandriatmoko said.

The BNN would strengthen its coordination with the Communications and Information Ministry to conduct cyber-patrols on accounts allegedly used for trading drugs.

"The (app-based) transportation services must also intensify their monitoring of the goods to be delivered to customers," he added.