Three Maldivians connected with a Hong Kong-based international drug cartel were arrested in Kochi City on Monday with 1.5 litres of hashish oil, according to reports in Indian media.
The Maldivians – identified as Shifan Ibrahim, 30, Azim Habeeb, 33, and Mohamed Safoof, 34 – were arrested with Anthony Sami, 30, a Tamil Nadu native, from a hotel parking ground before they were about to leave for the airport.
Hidden in shampoo bottles, the drug haul was worth about US$246,500. Hashish oil is a thick liquid extracted from cannabis.
“The accused planned to smuggle the contraband brought from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu to the Maldives via the Nedumbassery airport,” J Himendranath, deputy commissioner of the Kochi City police, was quoted as saying.
Their passports showed multiple trips between the Maldives, Thailand, Singapore and India in December alone, he said.
According to Kochi police, the suspects are part of a drug smuggling network from Hong Kong called Kona Gold, which uses Indian ports for their operations.
They were all on the wanted list of the Narcotics Control Bureau.
Last month, three Hongkongers were arrested while trying to smuggle 7kg of cocaine from the Maldives to the city. They were hired by a drug trafficking syndicate and promised a free tour of the Maldives in return, the South China Morning Post reported, citing Hong Kong police.
According to the new interim Maldives police chief, 130kg of drugs were seized in the country during the past three years.
“The drug epidemic is detrimental to our communities. Police use of certain tactics to prevent and deter drug trafficking and peddling is about achieving the overarching policing objective of protecting the public,” he tweeted Tuesday.
File photo of seized hashish oil packets.