Two Men Arrested in Airport Cocaine Bust After US Tipoff

Police on Sunday arrested a Romanian man who landed at Phnom Penh International Airport with nearly half a million dollars worth of cocaine in his luggage, as well as a Nigerian national to whom he allegedly intended to hand off the contraband.

Adrian-Calin Varadi, 35, had arrived from Brazil and was apprehended by authorities at the airport at about 4 p.m. in response to a tip from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Deputy National Police Commissioner Mok Chito said on Monday.

“We received information in the morning from the DEA. The DEA informed us there was a possibility that a suspect was on a flight from Brazil to Cambodia…suspected of trafficking drugs,” he said. “Among the passengers, we suspected one person, a Romanian national. So we checked his belongings and found nearly 20 packages of cocaine.”

Lieutenant General Chito said the drugs weighed nearly 5 kg.

He did not explain why they picked Mr. Varadi out of the crowd. But once arrested and questioned, he said, the Romanian led police to his alleged Nigerian contact, Chukwuemeka Ibe, 40, who was arrested at a Phnom Penh guesthouse on Sunday evening.

“[Mr. Varadi] came to Cambodia in order to give the drugs to another person who came from Thailand,” he said. “We already arrested the person who came to take the items.”

He said both suspects were being detained at the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department. Department director Khieu Saman declined to comment.

Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said Mr. Varadi had been traveling alone with the drugs in his suitcase. He said the cocaine had a market value of nearly $500,000 and was likely destined for another country. “There is no market for cocaine in Cambodia,” he said.

The bust bore similarities to an arrest made three years ago. In that case, police arrested a 38-year-old Romanian man at Siem Reap International Airport after he arrived from Brazil with 3.5 kg of cocaine.

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