A man suspected of trafficking 2 kg of heroin from Phnom Penh to Australia hidden inside fish fillets was apprehended at Brisbane Airport on Wednesday, Cambodian officials said on Friday.
Anh Kien Tran, a 49-year-old Australian national, had boarded SilkAir flight MI-622 from Phnom Penh International Airport at noon on Tuesday, police said.
He was discovered by Brisbane Airport customs officials with two containers of fish, holding 20 heroin-filled condoms, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
“He had originally passed through our checking counter,” said Chhay Bunnar, Airport Immigration Chief in Phnom Penh.
Anh Kien Tran had checked the fishy luggage through as cargo, which is the responsibility of the private firm managing the airport, Cambodian Airport Management Services Ltd, Chhay Bunnar said.
Chhay Bunnar and Phnom Penh airport Director Bun Thy referred further questions to CAMS Security Chief Em Ratana, who refused to discuss the matter, citing security concerns. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Cambodia and Australia have been working closely to combat drug trafficking.
“There is a very close and fruitful cooperation…. Without cooperation, we could not see any results,” he said on Sunday. “We have eliminated nearly all the trafficking from Cambodia to Australia.”
Also on Sunday, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty announced a “historic” law enforcement agreement between AFP and Cambodian police, ABC reported.
Khieu Sopheak said he hopes the two countries will soon sign extradition treaties as well.
Graham Shaw, technical officer on HIV/AIDS and drug abuse for the World Health Organization, described heroin trafficking, usually from Burma to Cambodia and then to Australia, as a growing problem.
He estimated that 2 kg sells for $20,000 in Phnom Penh and $500,000 in Australia. But Anh Kien Tran’s case did not sound like the work of a professional, Shaw said.
“Going into Australia, they check for any kind of produce you have with you,” he said. “It’s a standard customs check in Australia, so to hide it inside fish doesn’t make any sense.”