An Australian man flying from Phnom Penh International Airport was arrested Saturday in Melbourne airport for allegedly transporting 3 kg of heroin, Australian media reported Tuesday.
According to The Australian newspaper, 46-year-old Duy Phat Nguyen was caught allegedly smuggling the narcotics in bags of coffee. Australian authorities said he carried the drugs on a flight from Phnom Penh to Melbourne via Kuala Lumpur, the report said.
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 3 kg of heroin would be worth $405,000 in Australia.
Chhuor Kimny, chief of police at the Phnom Penh airport, said he was unaware of the arrest.
“It’s not easy to go through with that much heroin. Three kilograms is a lot,” he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that he, too, was unaware of the arrest. But he added that he appreciated Australia’s efforts in combating the regional drug trade.
“Whether the person is Australian or Cambodian…they have to face the law,” he said.
An Australian Embassy spokesman declined comment.
Saturday’s arrest marks at least the eighth seizure of heroin this year from travelers who had either passed through the Phnom Penh airport or were trying to do so.
Only three of the eight arrests were made by officials at the airport.
The remaining suspects were caught only after they reached their destinations.
Graham Shaw, technical officer on drug use for the World Health Organization, said that although Duy Phat Nguyen made it through Phnom Penh, this does not “automatically mean that the Cambodian authorities are lax in their duty.”
Sometimes authorities let a trafficker through in order to follow him to gain further intelligence about his drug ring, he said.
But he also said it is possible that airport officials simply didn’t check thoroughly enough, or thought it would be “much easier to let other countries deal with it.”