MANILA, Philippines - Anti-drug police officers are looking at the West African drug syndicate as the ones behind Mary Jane Veloso’s foiled smuggling of 2.6 kilos of heroin into Indonesia in 2010.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Sr. Supt. Bartolome Tobias said the West African syndicate has been using mules to transport illegal drugs.
“It’s a big possibility,” he said. “Most common is that they use mules... first timers and second timers.”
Tobias headed the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force before assuming his current post.
Sr. Supt. Andy Suan, AIDSOTF chief of staff, said the West African syndicate offers mules as high as $5,000 based on past case studies they have initiated on the syndicate.
“It is the West African drug syndicate which lures OFWs to smuggle drugs for at least $500, or roughly equivalent to P25,000, depending on the quantity of the illegal drugs to be smuggled,” he said.
Suan said mules are recruited in the Philippines, but the drug transactions are made abroad.
The West African syndicate’s local contacts also entice the poor to work abroad with the intention of stuffing illegal drugs in a big suitcase which they would provide to unsuspecting recruits, he added.
Tobias justified the apparent excessive attention being given to Veloso’s alleged recruiter Ma. Kristina Sergio, who had sought protective custody with the police.
“This is not only a case of Sergio’s possible involvement,” he said. “The case itself is big because it involves life and death such as what we have seen in the case of Mary Jane Veloso.”
Sergio would play a key role in identifying the people behind the illegal drugs seized from Veloso, Tobias said.
Suan said the case of Veloso should serve as a lesson to travelers not to accommodate people requesting them to carry luggage for them.
“Our OFWs should also be very careful about fellow Pinoys who would ask for a favor of bringing a package to the Philippines,” he said.
Travelers must doubt somebody offering a huge sum in exchange for carrying a package, especially at the airports, Suan said. – Aurea Calica
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