Unsuspecting Japanese tourist lured by travel freebies into smuggling meth in 'never-seen-before method'

BANGKOK (AFP) - An Iranian man has been arrested after using travel freebies to lure an unsuspecting Japanese tourist into smuggling a bag of clothes laced with crystal meth, Thai police said on Monday (Dec 10).

The tourist, whose name has not been disclosed, found the deal on a travel website that offered free getaways to Thailand, Shanghai and Frankfurt, complete with thousands in spending money.

But after arriving in Thailand last week, he was handed "suspicious" luggage for his next trip to Shanghai, Major General Itthipol Itthisarnronnachai, deputy chief of Thailand's immigration department, told reporters.

"Inside the bag, he found clothes that felt more solid than usual. He then contacted the Japanese embassy," Maj Gen Itthipol said.

Police said the clothes had been coated with crystal methamphetamine - known as ice. Four bags of the drug were also found, adding up to 2.2kg in total.

Thailand gets 35 million tourists a year and some fall prey to low-level scams or robbery, but few are swept up in transnational drug-running.

"It's a never-seen-before method, luring tourists to traffick drugs out of the country," Maj Gen Itthipol added.

Demand for meth is surging in the region at a time when authorities are attempting to crack down on the lucrative business.

Police said the Iranian national was arrested when he went to retrieve the luggage after the Japanese man pretended to be sick and said he wanted to cancel the trip.

They found 10kg of ice and ice-coated clothing in the suspect's apartment.

"We will pursue this case and investigate networks in Thailand and Japan to take down this scam," Maj Gen Itthipol said.