Intoxicating 'tea leaf' gang busted

KUALA LUMPUR - A drug mule decided to go for it alone and make it big. With the contacts he had made as a runner, he posed as a tea merchant, brought in top-grade drugs from Myanmar and had been about to ship the drugs to Australia and Indonesia when the cops moved in.

In the biggest drug bust in the country's history, police raided two rented houses, arrested four men and a woman and seized an assortment of drugs worth an estimated RM50mil (S$19 million). Police also confiscated nine luxury cars - several of which had secret compartments - two laptops, jewellery and RM51,229 in cash.

The drugs - top-grade heroin, party pills and syabu - were packed to look like high-end Chinese tea packets.

The group was planning to move out of one of the houses this Sunday after shipping off the drug stash.

Police said they were hunting for the mastermind behind the syndicate and expected to make more arrests soon.

The simultaneous raids, in Cheras and Sungai Long, beginning at 8.45pm on Monday followed more than six months of surveillance. All the suspects were locals.

Federal Narcotics Crime InvesĀ­tigation Department director Comm Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim said that 209.96kg of syabu, 40.47kg of heroin and 26.85kg of ecstasy pills were seized.

"Initial investigations revealed that the houses were used as stores for the drugs. We believe the group had been operating for a while, but we started following them early this year," he said at a press conference at the Bukit Aman police headquarters here.

"We believe the syndicate moved from place to place every two months to evade the authorities."

Comm Noor Rashid said police believed the group received its supply of drugs from Myanmar before smuggling them to other countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

"The syndicate operated with links in other countries. We are working with our foreign counterparts to trace and nab their connections," he added.

He said police ruled out the possibility that the group was part of a triad.

Sources said drug syndicates in Myanmar are known to produce the high grade Heroin 4, but they have diversified their business to produce syabu because of the demand in Malaysia and other South-East Asian countries.

It is believed the drugs were smuggled through Thailand to Malaysia and then to other countries.

Heroin 4 is usually for Australia, ecstasy for Indonesia, and syabu for the neighbouring countries.

Comm Noor Rashid said two men and a woman were arrested in the raid on the house at Taman Gemilang in Cheras, and about 90kg of syabu were seized.

In the raid on the house in Bandar Sungai Long, two men were nabbed and 40.47kg of heroin, 119.8kg of syabu and 26.85kg of ecstasy pills were seized.

The five suspects, aged between 26 and 57, will be investigated under Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

Comm Noor Rashid said police were investigating whether the drugs were smuggled by air, land or sea.