Romanians, Nigerians arrested in Cambodian drug bust

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian police said Thursday they have arrested two Romanians and three Nigerians after seizing nearly 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of methamphetamine from one of them as he prepared to board a flight to Hong Kong.

Deputy National Police Chief Mok Chito said police on Wednesday found the drug in four plastic packets in luggage belonging to Romanian Narcis-Manuel Olaru at the airport in Siem Reap in northeastern Cambodia. It is a major international gateway for tourists because it is home to the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.

Olaru told police four other members of his gang lived in the capital, Phnom Penh, where they were arrested. Mok Chito said the suspects confessed they received the drug from Laos and its ultimate destination was New Zealand, where it would be worth three times its Cambodian value of about $50,000 per kilogram ($22,700 per pound).

Much of methamphetamine is produced in the Golden Triangle region where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet, and which has also long been a center for the production of heroin. The illicit drugs often transit Laos for onward shipment to overseas markets. The smuggling is facilitated by porous borders and lax law enforcement.

Mok Chito said the arrests came after nearly a month of investigation following a tipoff from Japanese police, who were informed about the gang’s members in Cambodia by an alleged drug trafficker arrested there last month.

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