Nigerians in Meth Bust Lacked Passports, Visas

Nine Nigerian nationals arrested by police in Phnom Penh on Sunday night for possession and distribution of crystal methamphetamine were in Cambodia without passports or valid visas, an anti-drug police chief said.

The gang was arrested at three separate locations after undercover anti-drug police set up a deal to purchase 100 grams of crystal meth from one of the dealers at an address in Daun Penh district.

“Four of the Nigerian men have passports but their visas are out of date, while five have no passports or documents at all,” said Yen Panharith, acting chief of the drug police’s Bureau 9 at the Ministry of Interior.

The men were questioned yesterday by anti-drug police, who believe there are more members of the gang, including the kingpin, operating in the city. But Colonel Panharith said some of the suspects were refusing to cooperate with police and denied involvement.

“It is anarchy for people to be living under the radar in Cambodia without any documentation, which makes it easy for them to deal drugs and for ringleaders of drug gangs to manipulate them to sell drugs,” he said.

Col. Panharith said another Nigerian man, who was apprehended along with the nine others, was found to be not involved with the gang’s illicit activities and was legally residing in Cambodia with a valid passport and visa, as well as a contract to play football with the NagaCorp Football Club.

The president of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization in Cambodia, Abayomi Koledoye, said he had offered his full cooperation to authorities and had carried out background checks on the nine suspects, discovering that at least one had a criminal background.

“I have done background checks on all of them and found that one of them was just released from prison in Cambodia after serving eight years for drugs. How can such a fellow be allowed to continue living in Cambodia?” he said.

Mr. Koledoye said he advocated jail for convicted drug dealers but expressed concern that the actions of a few fellow nationals threatened to cast a cloud over an otherwise honest and hardworking Nigerian community.

“All Nigerians inside Cambodia’s various prisons are there on drug convictions,” he said. “The mood among the community is of bitterness against these people for causing Nigerians to be seen as drug pushers. It is hard for us to swallow.”

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