Wed, 06 Aug 2003

Officers blame equipment for failure to arrest Brazilian

Multa Fidrus, The Jakarta Post, Tangerang

The Soekarno-Hatta International Airport customs and excise put the blame on a lack of security facilities for their failure to arrest Brazilian paraglider Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira, who attempted to smuggle 13.7 kilograms of cocaine into the country.

Head of the Customs and Excise Office at the airport Jusuf Hindarto told the press on Tuesday that the lack of security facilities and an unorganized flight schedule hindered his officers in monitoring arriving and departing passengers.

"We have submitted our request to PT Angkasa Pura, the airport management, for security cameras in certain corners of the airport since 2001. We still haven't received the equipment," he said.

The mixed domestic and foreign flights added to the difficulties in monitoring the passengers.

"It's very difficult for our officers to monitor passengers at peak hours, during which many of them arrive or depart," Jusuf said.

PT Angkasa Pura spokesman Sjahrial Sjam said that Moreira fled the officers when he was still at the customs and excise checkpoint.

Sjahrial admitted that the mixed flight at Terminal II only flew the Denpasar route on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Moreira arrived at the airport on Saturday afternoon aboard a KLM airlines flight at 5:15 p.m. It was his third visit to Indonesia.

He appeared nervous when his seven bags and two paraglider bars passed through the X-ray machine. When he was asked to show his passport, Moreira fled the scene and back into the terminal.

Officers could not track him down inside the airport, as many passengers had just disembarked from a Garuda flight.

Since nothing looked suspicious on the X-ray machine, the officers decided to cut the bars and found 19 plastic bags of white powder, which they initially thought was heroin, but was later confirmed to be cocaine.

The customs and excise officers have closed down access to all airports and seaports in the country in an effort to find Moreira, who is still at large.

Jusuf said that Moreira was not only a courier, but that he was part of an international drug syndicate.

"He's a Brazilian athlete," he said, showing Moreira's picture in a Brazilian newspaper.

"Looking at his belongings, it's impossible that he came alone. Somebody would have picked him up on arrival."

If Moreira is caught, he will be charged under Law No. 22/1997 on narcotics, which carries a maximum death penalty.