Serang, Banten/Jakarta. Two months of careful detective work by Jakarta and Depok police officers resulted in the seizure on Thursday (13/07) of a ton of crystal methamphetamine, locally known as shabu-shabu, worth Rp 1.5 trillion ($112 million) smuggled from China.
Police said in a press statement later in the day that this was the largest ever seizure of crystal meth in terms of volume in the country's history. The drug was meant to be distributed in the greater Jakarta area.
"Millions of lives have been saved by the seizure of these drugs from China," Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. M. Iriawan told reporters.
The police shot dead Taiwanese citizen Lin Ming Hui, one of four suspected drug traffickers targeted in the raid, because he had tried to escape.
Two other suspects were captured, but one managed to flee.
Police found a ton of crystal meth packed neatly into 51 boxes in the empty Mandalika Hotel near Anyer Beach in Serang, Banten – a popular beach resort west of Jakarta.
Iriawan said the police are interrogating the hotel owner to see if he has any connection with the suspected drug ring.
Haven for Traffickers?
Indonesia is known to have one of the toughest anti-narcotics laws in the world, that includes death penalty for traffickers. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo declared that Indonesia was in the middle of a "narcotics emergency" and a "war on drugs" in early 2015.
Eighteen people, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Dutch citizen Ang Kim Soei, Brazilian Marco Archer Cardoso Mareira and Indonesian Andriani, a.k.a. Melisa Aprilia, convicted in drug-related cases have been executed under Jokowi's administration, despite international protest. They faced the firing squad on Indonesia's infamous Nusakambangan prison island.
However, the executions apparently have not deterred traffickers from operating in Indonesia.
National Narcotics Agency (BNN) chief Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso said during an International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking ceremony at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah in East Jakarta on Thursday that the agency has identified around 72 "active" international drug rings in the country.
"We are concerned, because there are also so many drug users," Budi said.
BNN claims that around 50 Indonesians die every day from drug abuse, and that around 7 million are believed to have used illicit drugs.
Budi said many drug rings are controlled from inside Indonesia's prisons by convicted traffickers.
He said BNN recently also received a tip-off from its counterpart in Thailand that authorities there have seized a container containing crystal meth headed to Indonesia.
The BNN chief said traffickers may be diverting their operations to Indonesia after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte began his own much-criticized deadly war on drugs, which includes a shoot-on-sight order for drug dealers.
"Many drug traffickers changed course to Indonesia as a consequence," he said.
The largest ever seizure of crystal meth is a victory of sorts for Indonesian law enforcers, but Budi said he believes the amount of drugs being smuggled into the country that escapes police's attention is even larger.