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'Novel methods' being used to smuggle drugs into Singapore amid COVID-19 restrictions: CNB

'Novel methods' being used to smuggle drugs into Singapore amid COVID-19 restrictions: CNB

Drugs have been smuggled into Singapore by (clockwise from left) drone or hidden in a papaya and coconut. (Photos: Central Narcotics Bureau)

SINGAPORE: Drug traffickers and syndicates operating in Singapore are using "novel" smuggling methods to exploit COVID-19 travel restrictions, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said on Tuesday (Nov 17).  

"The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in border closures and movement restrictions worldwide," a spokesperson said in response to queries from CNA.

"Yet, drug traffickers and syndicates continue to exploit this situation, coming up with novel methods to smuggle drugs into Singapore, in order to reap profits from those trapped in the vicious cycle of drug abuse and misery."

The novel methods include hiding drugs inside fruits like coconut or papaya. People have also been arrested on suspicion of using a drone to import drugs into Singapore from Malaysia.

READ: CNB seizes drugs worth almost S$2 million, including largest single haul of heroin in nearly two decades

This comes after CNB announced on Nov 13 that it had seized almost S$2 million worth of drugs including 14kg of heroin, which was its largest single haul of the drug in nearly two decades. 

"Even with movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 situation, drug traffickers are still taking huge gambles, exploiting the situation, so they can profit off addiction," CNB Intelligence Division director Superintendent Aaron Tang had said then.

Other notable busts include the seizure of more than 5kg of heroin and 1kg of Ice on Sep 21, as well as more than 11kg of heroin on Jul 30.

A check by CNA showed that more heroin was seized by the authorities from April onwards, when the "circuit breaker" kicked in, than the whole of last year.

READ: 4 arrested after drone carrying drugs spotted over Kranji Reservoir Park

The CNB spokesperson said on Tuesday that the agency had in past months "prevented a sizeable amount of drugs from reaching the ground, disrupting syndicates' nefarious and novel methods to smuggle drugs".

"We will keep up our enforcement efforts and the pressure on drug traffickers and syndicates alike," the spokesperson added. "CNB will continue to work swiftly and relentlessly to dismantle these drug syndicates."

FRUITS AND DRONES

On Jun 17, two Singaporean men were arrested on suspicion of using a drone to import drugs from Malaysia. The drone was intercepted at Kranji Reservoir Park and was found to be carrying a black bag containing 278g of Ice. 

Police said at the time that flight data retrieved from one of the suspects' phone showed that the unmanned aircraft had flown from Kranji to Johor Bahru and back again to Kranji.

READ: 3 arrested, drugs worth more than S$66,000 seized including ketamine hidden in coconut

The next month on Jul 21, two Singaporean men were arrested in a residential unit along Upper Serangoon Road after a coconut used to hide 317g of ketamine was found.

Then on Sep 17, two Singaporean men were arrested after a papaya containing 333g of Ice and 121g of ketamine was found in a fruit basket in their vehicle along River Valley Road. CNB officers also arrested three Malaysian men near the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, believed to be the source of the fruit basket.

READ: Drugs hidden in papaya seized, eight arrested in CNB operation​​​​​​​

According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report released in May, COVID-19 restrictions like border closures have disrupted drug supply chains, prompting traffickers to look for alterative routes depending on the type of drug.

While heroin has mostly been trafficked by land, the report said, traffickers are increasingly using maritime routes, as shown by seizures of opiates in the Indian Ocean.

Synthetic drugs like methamphetamine, which includes Ice, tend to be trafficked by air through body packs or concealed in luggage, the report said. However, this could be "completely" disrupted by almost universal air travel restrictions.

"This is likely to have a particularly drastic effect on the trafficking of synthetic drugs, not least methamphetamine, to countries in Southeast Asia," the report added.

The CNB spokesperson said the agency is committed to keeping Singapore's streets safe from drugs. "CNB will not hesitate to investigate and take action if any drug activities are detected," the spokesperson stated.

Source: CNA/hz

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