Eight women and two men from Iran have been arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle more than Rp 100 billion ($10.6 million) worth of methamphetamine into the country.
Customs officials called it the biggest drug bust ever at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
The Iranians arrived on flights from Malaysia, Syria and Qatar on Monday and Tuesday. Some of the women wore traditional Islamic veils.
Customs officials said the suspects were caught with a total of 26.8 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and 22.5 liters of the drug in liquid form.
Officers discovered the drugs hidden inside food containers and soap and shampoo bottles packed in hand luggage.
Nine of the 10 suspects were shown to the public during a press conference at the airport’s customs office.
They are being held at the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta. The 10th suspect, a 26-year-old man, was hospitalized after he tried to commit suicide.
The suspects are accused of belonging to a drug ring based in the Middle East. Methamphetamine from the region is said to be a favorite among Indonesian drug users because of its high quality.
Meanwhile, police said they were investigating a possible link between those arrested at the airport and an American man and an Iranian man arrested on Monday for allegedly dealing drugs.
“The two were detained for selling methamphetamine, locally known as shabu-shabu. We seized nearly 5.6 kilograms of meth from American passport holder Frank Armado, 35, from his apartment in Central Jakarta,” said Insp. Gen. Dikdik Mulyana Arief, deputy chief of the National Police’s criminal investigation department.
Dikdik said the seized drugs had an estimated value of Rp 9.5 billion.He said Armado’s “boss” is an Iranian, Peyman bin Azizallah, alias Sorena, 40, who is a repeat drug offender.
He said Sorena was jailed in Cirebon, West Java, from 2002 to 2004 for selling drugs.
Sorena was arrested at a different location in Jakarta.
“Both of them always stayed in separate places. This syndicate also never met with the buyers. They used drop points when [Armado] delivered the meth,” he said.
Police allege that Armado worked as a drug courier for Sorena, delivering methamphetamine to buyers at prearranged drop-off points in hotel rooms across the capital.
“For each transaction, he got $5,000 from Sorena,” Dikdik said.
Armado told the Jakarta Globe he was innocent. “I don’t know anything about what they say,” he said.
Armado added that he preferred to be extradited to the United States than face trial in Indonesia.
Dikdik said there seemed to be a changing pattern to drug smuggling operations into Indonesia.
“They used to use the African drug syndicates to smuggle heroin and now they use Middle East syndicates to smuggle meth,” he said.
The Jakarta Globe