Rise in number of Malaysian drug mules caught abroad, says anti-narcotics chief

SUBANG JAYA - There is an increasing trend of Malaysians being used to transport drugs, with some of them taking up the roles voluntarily to get cash, said the country's top narcotics chief.

Twenty-three Malaysians were caught as drug mules in Hong Kong alone last year, the federal police's Narcotics Crimes Investigations Department deputy director Zulkifli Ali was quoted as saying by Malay Mail online news on Sunday (Feb 3).

"I myself was shocked when I was briefed of how many were arrested overseas.

"There is also a significant increase in locals getting arrested in Australia and South Korea," he told a news conference at the Subang Jaya district police headquarters.

Most of the them, said Senior Assistant Commissioner Zulkifli, offered to act as mules for payments of between RM5,000 and RM10,000 (S$1,650 and S$3,300) for a successful run.

"They will first be given a deposit payment and then the remainder once they return safely, but if their luck runs out and are caught, they don't get paid," he said, as quoted by Malay Mail.

Earlier last week, eight Malaysians were charged for drug trafficking in Incheon, South Korea, after they were caught with a total of 13.3kg of methamphetamine.

They were accused of attempting to smuggle in the drugs, worth some RM161.4 million, from Malaysia via the Incheon and Gimhae International Airports on five occasions from Dec 27 last year to Jan 17 this year.

The drugs were packed into 1kg to 2kg bags and strapped to the suspects' thighs and abdomens to pass through security.

Mr Zulkifli was quoted by Bernama news agency in December 2018 as saying 425 Malaysian drug mules were detained by the authorities in 19 countries between 2013 and October last year.

He said Singapore recorded the highest number of Malaysian drug mule arrests, with 175 people languishing in its prisons.

This was followed by Indonesia where 85 Malaysians had been arrested, Thailand (49), Australia (34) and 21 people in Japan.

In Malaysia, Mr Zulkifli said in December, international syndicates often masterminded by African nationals, were recruiting Malaysians, especially women, by financing their flights to travel to certain countries.

They were given RM2,000 pocket money and promised RM5,000 to RM10,000 if they succeeded in their shady missions.