The Ministry of Interior arrested five men Wednesday for their alleged involvement in smuggling more than 24 kg of heroin from Cambodia to Australia, officials said on Sunday.
The five suspects were arrested in Phnom Penh after a four-month investigation that followed Australia’s largest drug bust in a year.
In early April, anti-narcotic police in Australia found the heroin inside containers of fish paste that had been shipped from Cambodia. The heroin has an estimated value of $14.5 million.
The suspected ringleader, Cao Vanlan, is an Australian citizen, said Nov Leakhana, deputy chief of the foreign police department at the Ministry of Interior. Three more suspects, Chea Tech, 57, Seng Dara, 33, and Chang Kaing, 33, all work for the Techinex company in Prampi Makara district. Chea Tech is the owner of the local business, Nov Leakhana added.
The fifth suspect, Ngon Sang, 41, is a resident of Sihanoukville and allegedly was in charge of the fish paste involved in the smuggling operation, Nov Leakhana said Sunday.
“All five men were arrested last week, and they are drug dealers involved in the 24-kg heroin haul which was seized in Sydney,” said Lour Ramin, deputy secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs.
The investigation was ordered by Hok Lundy, director general of the National Police, Nov Leakhana said.
The five suspects are scheduled to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court today to face charges, he said.
At the time of the drug bust in April, Australian officials arrested a 32-year-old Vietnamese man whom they allege went to pick up the fish paste at a port in Sydney.
Previous reports have stated that large amounts of heroin are smuggled out of the country each month.
Cambodia has become notorious in recent years as a transit country for drugs smuggled out of the Golden Triangle countries of Laos, Burma and Thailand.