A large cache of high-grade Ecstasy confiscated July 20 from two Nigerian nationals and a Cambodian man was likely bound for markets in neighboring Vietnam and Thailand, drug experts said Monday, although court and police officials gave differing accounts of the size of their haul.
The drug bust comes amid concerns that West African drug syndicates are moving from Thailand and setting up shop here, said Graham Shaw, program officer for the UN office of drug control and crime prevention.
Kim Vanna, 46, and brothers Peter and Joseph Brown, both in their mid-40s, were charged Saturday in Phnom Penh Municipal Court with drug trafficking.
Though police initially reported that the men were trying to export heroin, Meak Dara, anti-drug police chief for the Ministry of Interior, said Sunday the three were attempting to import 5,000 Ecstasy pills into Cambodia.
Kim Vanna was arrested while picking up four packages containing the pills, and his interrogation led to the subsequent arrest of Peter Brown and his older brother Joseph, Meak Dara said.
Peter Brown was charged Saturday with drug trafficking while Joseph and Kim Vanna were charged as accomplices, said court prosecutor Khut Sopheang. He added that the Browns were arrested at the airport when they tried to use what appeared to be fake British passports. An inspection of their luggage revealed about 4,000 Ecstasy pills.
Asked in court how many Ecstasy pills were in their possession, the brothers said there were 4,165 pills, Khut Sopheang said.
The brothers refused to speak to reporters. Kim Vanna said only: “The police are acting strange.”
Because of the drugs’ quality and estimated $20 to $50 street value, it is unlikely that the men were trying to distribute them in Cambodia, Shaw said.
All three are waiting trial in Prey Sar prison.
(Additional reporting by Sho Spaeth)