Veiled Iranian women suspected of drug smuggling
JAKARTA, Indonesia — A group of 10 alleged Iranian drug smugglers, including eight veiled women, were caught with $12.5 million worth of methamphetamines at Indonesia's main airport, the customs chief said Wednesday.
The group was picked up at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport with 60 pounds (27 kilograms) of crystal methamphetamine and 5 gallons (23 liters) of the drug in liquid form, said customs chief Anwar Suprijadi.
It is the largest drug bust in the airport's history, he said, describing how the group had arrived on flights from Malaysia, Syria and Qatar on Monday and Tuesday.
Indonesian authorities have never seen veiled women used as drug runners, he said. The drugs, wrapped in plastic food containers and cleaning fluid bottles, were packed into hand luggage. But the oddly-shaped packages were picked out by officers operating scanners.
"We believe they are part of an international syndicate," he said. By wearing conservative Islamic clothing the women tried to "fool officers in a country like Indonesia, where women in black veils are generally considered to be good women."
Nine suspects were paraded in front of the media at an airport detention facility Wednesday, while a tenth is said to have attempted suicide and was in a hospital. A 26-year-old man, who allegedly carried the liquid drug from Doha, tried to sever an artery with a razor blade.
Indonesia has extremely strict drug laws and traffickers are regularly sentenced to death. By the end of 2008, about 140 people were on death row, including more than 40 foreigners, most of them for drug-related crimes.
Customs offices across Indonesia, a vast Muslim-majority nation of 235 million people, were warned to be on the lookout for other possible smuggling attempts. Poor law enforcement, corruption and high demand make Indonesia an attractive location for drug producers.
By NINIEK KARMINI (AP)