Indonesian police seized record 3.7 tons of controlled substances last year

The total drug seizure and arrests were significantly higher than the 2.9 tons confiscated from the 580 raids and the 840 people, including six foreigners, arrested in 2015. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesian narcotics police seized 3.7 tons of controlled substances last year (2016), as ramped up raids led to hundreds of shipments being intercepted in the country's war on drugs.

About 1,230 suspects, including 21 foreigners, were nabbed in more than 800 operations by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN).

The total drug seizure and arrests were significantly higher than the 2.9 tons confiscated from the 580 raids and the 840 people, including six foreigners, arrested in 2015.

However, the record haul in 2016 still pales in comparison to what is estimated to have hit the streets, Indonesia's anti-drugs czar Budi Waseso told reporters last week.

The police-general said the seizures thus far represents only about 1 per cent of what has been trafficked into Indonesia from China, India, Iran and Malaysia.

Although the figures for 2017 have not been tabulated, the BNN expects drug seizures for this year to hit another new high.

Citing intelligence from his counterparts in Beijing, Gen Budi believes some 250 tons of illicit substances such as Ecstasy, heroin and methamphetamine - better known as crystal meth or Ice - were snuck into Indonesia by traffickers from the Chinese mainland alone each year.

Another country where drugs are trafficked into Indonesia is neighbouring Malaysia.

In September, BNN officers stopped a car in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, and found 11.4kg of Ice hidden in jerry cans. The suspects later confessed that the drugs were smuggled from Tawau, Malaysia, by sea.

Last week, local police foiled an attempt to smuggle 25kg of crystal meth, and 25,000 Ecstasy pills into Siak, a district in Sumatra's Riau province.

Traffickers caught carrying drugs into Indonesia have used various methods to avoid detection - from concealing them in water tanks, the soles of footwear, and in a recent case, inside the rectum of a courier.

The 31-year-old Indonesian suspect was found with a condom filled with 86g of crystal meth stuffed up his anus, when he was arrested at the Batam ferry terminal in July. He was promised 8 million rupiah (S$804) for smuggling the drugs into Batam from Stulang Laut in Malaysia's Johor Baru.

The rising drug problem in Indonesia has led to President Joko Widodo's recent shoot-on-sight order, aiming at drug dealers and traffickers in Indonesia.

"I've told my men not to hesitate to shoot to kill if they have to (because) if drug offenders go to jail they get free meals, which are paid for by the state," said Gen Budi.

Earlier this week, the BNN chief, lashed out in frustration about how the endemic levels of corruption in the country's prisons have also hindered his anti-drug efforts.

BNN spokesman Colonel Sulistiandriatmoko said the agency has busted drug syndicates operating from behind bars - coordinating the importation and distribution of illicit drugs in and outside of prisons.

"This wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the assistance of rogue prison officers," he told The Straits Times on Thursday.

In July, a prison guard at Porong Penitentiary in East Java, was arrested with 20g of crystal meth which he was paid between one million rupiah and three million rupiah to deliver to inmates.

A month later, the prison warden and his chief security officer at Batu jail in the Nusakambangan maximum security prison complex were sacked after police busted a drug-ring responsible for bringing in 1.2 million Ecstasy pills, worth 600 billion rupiah, from the Netherlands.

The deal was coordinated from an inmate in jail for distribution outside of prison.

Gen Budi called such prison officials traitors who should receive heavier punishments than drug dealers. He said: "I know chopping their bodies into pieces would breach human rights but we have to come up with some punishments that really can have a deterrent effect."

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