Sat, 04 Jan 2003

Briton arrested with big ecstasy cache

I Wayan Juniartha, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

A British national was arrested by Bali police on Friday for allegedly possessing at least 8,175 ecstasy pills worth more than Rp 2 billion (US$225,000).

Steve Turner, 68, was caught on Thursday by officers of the Bali police's narcotics division, the province's Post Office and the local Customs and Excise Office, Bali Police chief Maj. Gen. Budi Setyawan said.

Speaking at a news conference in the provincial capital of Denpasar, he said the illegal drugs were sent to Bali from London in three packages via the British postal service.

Turner is suspected of being part of a larger Southeast Asian drug ring. "This is the most important arrest for the biggest drug find," Budi said.

He said the suspect had so far been living in the area of Uma Alas Kangin in the western outskirts of Denpasar.

Turner had intended to sell the pills to people celebrating the new year in Bali, Budi said.

The Bali Police chief said the arrest was made when Turner was trying to collect two packages containing 5,995 ecstasy pills from the Post Office, which had been sent from London by a Paul Harris and an R. Turner.

"On Jan. 2, 2003 at around 15.40 p.m. local time, the suspect came to the Bali Post Office to reclaim the packages. An officer there immediately directed him to on-duty officials of the Customs and Excise office, to whom he was supposed to pay all necessary taxes for the packages," he said.

When the suspect completed the tax payment, the Customs and Excise officers asked the suspect to open the packages for routine inspections.

It turned out that the first package contained 2,997 ecstasy pills inside a shampoo bottle and the second one contained two shirts and 2,958 ecstasy pills. The officers immediately notified police.

Police found 2,220 more ecstasy pills during a further search at the suspect's house. The illicit pills were stashed above the ceiling of the building.

"The pills has the picture of a butterfly, or a heart, or a deer on their surface. We believed that these pills are of premium quality," a narcotic's detective said.

He said ecstasy was sold for between Rp 150,000 and Rp 300,000 per pill. "So the price of these confiscated pills may range from Rp 1.2 billion to Rp 2.5 billion," the officer added.

In June, Bali Police arrested an Indonesian with more than 4,000 pills.

The government has clamped down on drug trafficking in recent years by imposing severe penalties for drug use and smuggling.

At least five foreigners, mostly Africans, have been sentenced to death and are awaiting execution for drug offenses.

Indonesia has increasingly been used as a transit point by international drug syndicates and there is also a growing domestic market.

Poor law enforcement, corruption and high demand make Indonesia a lucrative location for drug producers.

Ecstasy and amphetamine use has spread rapidly throughout Southeast Asia in recent years.