In what police officers described yesterday as the largest drug bust in Macau’s history, the Judiciary Police (PJ) arrested four Filipinos – two males and two females – on Saturday in two local hotels.
The four suspects were identified by police as a 44-year-old man surnamed Ermino, a 36-year-old man surnamed Jinlan, a 25-year-old woman surnamed Alcantara, and a 26-year-old woman surnamed Garcia.
PJ spokesman Vong Chi Hong told a special press conference Sunday that officers had been investigating the case for the past year, saying that Jinlan, Ermino and Alcantara had entered Macau on several occasions over the last six months just to see how local immigration officials check passengers and scan their luggage at the city’s various checkpoints.
Then on Saturday before noon, investigators saw the suspects entering Macau once again on Air Macau flight NX 007 from Beijing. They then followed them to Central Hotel, where they checked in separately and pretended not to know each other.
Officers then waited until the evening when they decided to search one of the rooms, arresting Jinlan and Ermino and seizing four suitcases containing 25.497 kilogrammes of cocaine in the form of bricks wrapped in carbon paper and packed in boxes covered with gift-wrapping paper.
They then went to Sintra Hotel based on their investigation, picked up Alcantara and Garcia and seized 25.351 kilogrammes of cocaine packed in the same manner.
Vong said that the total amount of cocaine seized by police weighed 50.848 kilogrammes with a street value of up to 200 million patacas due to its high purity.
He alleged that the suspects are members of an international crime syndicate. They first flew from the Philippines to Sao Paulo in Brazil, where they picked up the drugs, then boarded a flight to Beijing via an airport in Europe before catching the Air Macau flight from Beijing to Macau. The PJ spokesman said police believed that the cocaine was destined for nearby regions.
“We’ll continue our investigations in order to find out how they would have taken the drugs out of Macau, and we’ll also liaise with law-enforcement agencies in surrounding regions regarding this case,” Vong was quoted by The Macau Post Daily as saying.
Vong added that the suspects used carbon paper to wrap the cocaine in order to avoid X-ray detection while going through security checks. He also said one of the suspects told police that they had been promised US$1,000 each by their handlers, but given the amount of drugs involved, he said investigators found the claim unconvincing.
Asked by reporters as to whether or not officials have the ability to prevent drugs from entering Macau through its various checkpoints, Vong responded by stressing the fact that all the four suspects have been arrested.
“The most important thing is whether or not we can smash the criminal organisation… and bust all the suspects involved,” said Vong. “… We originally identified three suspects, but we ended up arresting four and we don’t rule out the possibility of there being a fifth. So we’ll try to apprehend as many [suspects] as possible,” Vong added.
The suspects are slated to be transferred to the Public Prosecution Office (MP) today for further questioning and possible arraignment on drug smuggling charges, facing a prison term ranging between a minimum of eight and a maximum of 12 years.(macaunews) (Photo by The Macau Post)