Malaysia's biggest drug bust

12 tonnes of cocaine worth $791m seized

The sacks of coal mixed with cocaine are believed to have arrived at Butterworth port on Aug 16. Police Inspector-General Abdul Hamid Bador said the cocaine was valued at RM200,000 per kg. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK
The sacks of coal mixed with cocaine are believed to have arrived at Butterworth port on Aug 16. Police Inspector-General Abdul Hamid Bador said the cocaine was valued at RM200,000 per kg. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Drug was mixed with 60 tonnes of coal in shipment to Penang from South America

GEORGE TOWN • In the biggest drug haul seen in Malaysia, police in Penang have seized 12 tonnes of cocaine worth RM2.4 billion (S$791 million) that traffickers had tried to pass off as coal.

The cocaine, which was mixed with 60 tonnes of coal, is believed to be from an international drug syndicate using Penang as a transit point, The Star reported.

Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said this is the biggest drug haul in local history, which was a huge cause for concern. "Malaysia has never been a traditional market for cocaine. It is therefore troubling to see this much cocaine entering our country," he was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today.

During the operation, carried out under the code name Ops Eagle, which was launched in Penang on Sept 10, the drugs were found in three containers filled with 60 sacks of coal at the Butterworth port on the same day.

The cargo originated from South America and was declared as coal.

"The containers are believed to have arrived at the port on Aug 16. They (the smugglers) used advanced technology to make sure that the drugs cannot be detected," said Tan Sri Abdul Hamid.

The cocaine even escaped detection by highly trained sniffer dogs as it was mixed well with the coal.

"Normal drug detecting technology would not be able to detect it. (But) our chemistry department has advanced technology that was able to detect the cocaine among the coal," he said at a press conference at George Town's Bayan Baru police station.

The cocaine was valued at RM200,000 per kg, he added.

A 29-year-old suspect believed to be in charge of arranging the shipment has been detained and will be in remand until Monday.

The case is being investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries the death penalty.

The drug bust surpassed the previous record, on Aug 20, when police seized 500kg of ketamine and more than 3.23 tonnes of cocaine worth over RM500 million in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Separately in Hong Kong, four Malaysians aged between 19 and 24 were arrested on Thursday at a rented apartment for allegedly smuggling 18 litres of liquid cocaine worth HK$20 million (S$3.5 million) in nine red wine bottles.

The suspects arrived in the city separately as tourists between late last month and early this month, Hong Kong paper Sing Tao said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2019, with the headline '12 tonnes of cocaine worth $791m seized'. Print Edition | Subscribe