Eight Nigerian men and a Cambodian woman who were allegedly dealing drugs from a church in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district were placed in provisional detention at Prey Sar prison on Tuesday after being questioned at the municipal court.
The nine suspects were charged with drug trafficking on Monday after police with the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug bureau arrested them in a sting last week. Police believe they were dealing crystal methamphetamine from the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries church.
The building was empty and locked Tuesday, but a small sign remained pinned to its front gate identifying it as a branch of the church, which, according to its website, is headquartered in Nigeria and has branches in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America.
Yin Panharith, acting chief of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug bureau 9, said police believed the suspects stored the drugs at the church and delivered them to customers in small quantities.
“When someone ordered 2 kg of drugs from them, they would not take 2 kg to [the customer]; they took 200 grams for each delivery every 15 minutes from a church,” he said.
The suspects were arrested at five separate locations in Meanchey and Chamkar Mon districts, including at the church, where police officers found no drugs, Mr. Panharith said.
“They kept the drugs there, but when we reached the church, they destroyed all the drugs by flushing them down a toilet,” he said.
Mr. Panharith named the suspects as Nigerian nationals Nnamezie Victor, 30; Francis Nnamdi, 30; Sunday Nwabuisi, 31; Tony Mmaduka Chukwuonye, 34; Okorom Kizito, 35; Favour Nnabuife Okorom, 36; Maduka Simon Ukandu, 37; and Izuchukwu Chukwuma, 40, and Cambodian Mon Vinyung, 25.
Investigating Judge Leang Samnath confirmed he had upheld trafficking charges initially laid by a deputy prosecutor.
Sok Seng, Judge Samnath’s clerk, said the group was sent to Prey Sar prison after being questioned by the judge.
“[The eight Nigerians] denied the charges and said there were no drugs in the church,” he said.
Mr. Seng added that Ms. Vinyung admitted to delivering packages for the Nigerian men. According to Mr. Panharith, his undercover officers ordered drugs from Ms. Vinyung, who picked them up at the church on Thursday before delivering them.