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50 suspects arrested in CNB operation tackling drug transactions on Telegram

CNA tagged along on a CNB raid targeting people suspected to have done drug transactions over Telegram.

50 suspects arrested in CNB operation tackling drug transactions on Telegram

A Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer asking a suspect about his drug activities based on his Telegram chats. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: Drugs once procurable only with the right connections are now readily available at an abuser’s fingertips, all with the security and anonymity of online messaging applications like Telegram, or so it seems.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) says since 2019, officers have been monitoring how drug offenders were using Telegram as a platform to sell or buy drugs, and have taken action against them. More than 200 drug offenders who had conducted drug transactions on Telegram have been arrested, and CNB has seized more than 14 kg of ‘Ice’, 7.6 kg of cannabis, 400g of heroin and an assortment of other drugs transacted over the platform, it said.

In the latest islandwide operation targeting such users, a total of 50 suspected drug offenders were arrested and an estimated S$20,400 worth of drugs were seized, CNB said in a press release on Wednesday (Dec 1). Some of the areas covered during the operation from Nov 16 to 30 included Ang Mo Kio, Boon Lay, Hougang, Pasir Ris and Punggol.

The youngest arrested is a 20-year-old male suspected drug offender.

Among the drugs seized in the stings: 55g of ‘Ice’, 395g of cannabis, 48g of ketamine, 44 ‘Ecstasy’ tablets, 14 LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) stamps, 25g of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), 15 Erimin-5 tablets and three bottles of liquid suspected to contain GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate).

CNA was invited to join CNB in one of the raids in the early hours of last Tuesday.

On the day CNA tagged along for the raid, this writer noticed large black backpacks and battering rams lining the walls of the walkway when officers were getting ready. They were prepared to smash down doors if needed.

But the battering rams did not get used.

Instead, CNB officers knocked on doors and asked apparently dazed family members about the whereabouts of suspects before requesting access to search the homes.

Officers on the job told us easy access was not a given, hence the battering rams.

Our first destination was an HDB flat in the west of Singapore. The suspect was sound asleep in his room at around 6.30am when a few CNB officers moved in. Some officers stayed in the living room to speak to concerned family members.

As the suspect spoke, officers put a surgical mask on him while two others searched his belongings.

Officers took occasional whiffs of suspicious items found. At one point, an officer asked the suspect if he took psychedelic mushrooms.

Officers packed various suspicious items, including ones possibly used for drug use, in plastic bags.

An hour later, the handcuffed suspect was put in a van.

CNB officers put a handcuffed suspect in a van. (Photo: Calvin Oh/CNA)

The next sting was at a condominium. Officers found a suspect asleep in the living room. They introduced themselves to the suspect and accompanied him to his bedroom.

Again, officers set about searching the suspect's belongings while questioning him. This time, they picked up several pills, LSD stamps and bottles of what is suspected to be the party drug GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate).

After the suspect had a quick word with his mother and gave her a tight hug, he was taken away for investigations.

"Drug offenders have always been trying to evade enforcement efforts. Syndicates will use novel concealment methods to smuggle drugs into Singapore; traffickers will employ evasive tactics to avoid CNB’s surveillance efforts; abusers will leverage secured messaging applications to look for drugs. CNB monitors such developments and is on a constant lookout for emerging trends and platforms," said Superintendent Aaron Tang, director of Intelligence Division at CNB.

"Given the popularity of messaging applications for daily communications, it is no surprise that drug syndicates and drug pushers are lulled into a false sense of security in using them for their drug activities. These offenders may think that such applications can offer them a certain level of anonymity to allow them to carry out their illegal activities, and they can avoid CNB’s surveillance. But they cannot be more wrong," he said.

He added that CNB knows the modus operandi of such drug dealers and will continue to be "tenacious" in following up on all such leads. "Regardless of the platform or tactics used in an attempt to evade detection, there is no safe haven for drug offenders in Singapore,” he said.

Source: CNA/ly
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