.. it was enroute to Hongkong

Rinzin Wangchuk

Thimphu police has seized 19.30 kilogrammes  (kg) of hashish and 600 grammes of crystal meth (methamphetamine), both illicit contraband items worth more than USD 600,000 or Nu 42.60 million last week.

The items were seized after the police received information from the customs officer at DHL, a courier service based in Thimphu on December 2 of having received two suspicious consignments from DHL office, Phuentsholing.

While inspecting the consignments, which were bound to Hongkong, police from RBP’s Office of Narcotic Drugs and Other Vices Division found a huge quantity of contraband substances.

Police said the ground for suspicion was that the shipment worth about Nu 15,000 were being sent paying DHL transportation charges of Nu 100,000. The shipment was sent by Mahesh Lama, a Nepalese man, in two separate boxes with the details mentioned in the DHL shipment bill.

Police found that the drugs (hashish) were properly packed inside Dabur and Baidyanath Chyawanprash containers using plastics and carbon papers and then filled with Chyawanprash Jel.

In Hongkong, the price for 1 gramme of hashish is between USD 25 and USD 50. A gramme of crystal meth fetches USD 100 and USD 150.

Crystal meth or ice is a smokable, crystalline solid form of methamphetamine used for achieving high concentrations in the brain, while hashish is a drug made from the resin of the cannabis plant.

Police’s preliminary investigation found that the shipment charge of Nu 20,000 for a 25-kg box and Nu 80,000 for 60kg box were deposited by two Bhutanese women through mBoB. Police also found that the same person had sent such consignments to Hongkong on five different occasions, all in 2019.  The consignor paid a total amount of Nu 198,900 as courier charges to DHL for the five consignments.

Sources from police said that on inquiry, Customs and DHL officials said that they do not have any set procedure to check the shipments. They only check the items randomly or otherwise when suspected as was done in this case.

The suspect while tracking over the Facebook navigation according to police officials, is found in Nepal. The case is under further investigation.

“We have informed the police in Hongkong through Interpol about this illicit contraband items,” Chief of Police, Brigadier Chimi Dorji said. “Bhutan being a peaceful country, people are trying to use it as a “transit country” to send contraband substances to other countries.”

He said that concerned officials, especially revenue and customs officials should be alert and ensure all the packages going through courier services from Bhutan Post office and DHL be scanned diligently.

Brigadier Chimi Dorji said that criminal gangs based in other countries may take advantage of the Bhutanese people to use Bhutan’s territory and also for money laundering.

“Under such circumstances, Bhutanese people will have to be very careful and alert so that they are not exploited or used by criminal gangs to smuggle any illegal items,” he said.

This is the second case of attempted smuggling involving huge quantity of controlled substances using Bhutan as trafficking route.

In the 1980s, criminal syndicates based in third countries had used three Bhutanese, two men and a woman, as carriers for the contraband substances to a foreign destination. However, they were arrested at one of the international airports and detained for eight years.

Meanwhile, police are also questioning two women who paid shipment charges in Phuentsholing. The women reportedly claimed that they were the business partners of Mahesh Lama.