Cops nab two men over 'ketum' leaves

JOHOR BARU - The police seized a box of ketum leaves, weighing 10kg, and detained two men who were believed to be planning to distribute them as herbal drugs around the city.

The arrests were made while the suspects, both working at a factory in Singapore, were loading the box into the booth of a car at Taman Nusantara in Gelang Patah, about 28km from here, at around 2.50pm on Oct 30.

Nusajaya district police chief Supt Noor Hashim Mohamad said their investigations showed the suspects had received the cargo via courier service from a friend in Kedah.

"The market price for ketum leaves is about RM25 (S$10) per kilo while packets of 500ml ketum drinks are sold at between RM2 and RM3.

"Some 60 litres of ketum drink could be made from 1kg of ketum leaves and many consume it to get high or regain energy," he said at a press conference here on Friday.

"It is also commonly mixed in other products, such as mosquito repellents, isotonic drinks and carbonated drinks," he added.

Supt Noor Hashim said the suspects, aged 30 and 44 and working as a cashier and supervisor, did not have any criminal records.

Both have been remanded for four days, he said, adding that the two were being questioned under Section 30(3) of the Poison Act 1952.

Ketum, or mitragyna speciosa, is a tree native to South-East Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia, and is in the same family as the coffee tree.

The leaves have been used in folk medicine as a stimulant (at low doses), sedative (at high doses), recreational drug, painkiller, as a cure for diarr-hoea and treatment for opiate addiction.