Anti-drug trafficking police arrested nine Nigerian nationals on Sunday night in three separate Phnom Penh locations for drug possession and distribution after undercover police bought 100 grams of crystal methamphetamine from one of the men, police said.
In Song, deputy chief of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-drug police, said undercover officers arrested one known dealer in Daun Penh district’s Phsar Thmei II commune after agreeing to purchase 100 grams of crystal methamphetamine from him valued at $2,600.
“After questioning the first suspect, our anti-drug police went to two other rental houses in Choam Chao commune in Pur Senchey district, which eventually led us to arrest nine Nigerian men,” he said.
The drug bust was the result of a monthlong operation approved by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to establish the Nigerian gang’s activity, said Yen Panharith, acting chief of the drug police’s Bureau 9.
“The men are Nigerian citizens and were very active selling drugs throughout the city at nighttime and during the day,” he said, adding that members of his unit masqueraded as buyers to snare the suspects.
“We spent a month watching their activity and with the approval of the municipal court prosecutor, [our undercover agents] first bought 20 grams from the dealer and then set up a bigger deal for 100 grams,” Colonel Panharith said.
As soon as the second transaction took place, police pounced and the suspect led officers to Borey Phiphup Thmei housing community in Traipang Thloeung village, where they arrested six others. Two men escaped with drugs but were later picked up empty-handed after being spotted by police wading through flooded rice fields nearby.
“They are now in our custody and we are questioning them one by one to find out their boss, as they have many tactics to sell drugs throughout Phnom Penh,” said Col. Panharith.
Abayomi Koledoye, president of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization in Cambodia, said he was still waiting for authorities to disclose information on the suspects’ identities, but he cautioned against allowing the illegal activity of a handful of people to stigmatize the entire Nigerian community in Cambodia, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding and engaged in legitimate business.
“This issue is a big problem for us…but how do we monitor this recalcitrant element unless they are caught by law enforcement agencies?” he said.
“I continue to appeal to media organizations to speak on behalf of the hundreds of well-meaning Nigerians living here and not to look at us through the eyes of a few that are determined to get rich quick.”
(Additional reporting by Simon Henderson)