Police yesterday said they have busted a drug trafficking ring smuggling narcotics to Malaysia and seized 1.18 million tablets of Erimin, a brand name of the hypnotic drug nimetazepam.
Four people were detained in raids conducted last month in New Taipei City, police said.
The Criminal Investigation Bureau yesterday displayed the items seized during the raids, including three 9mm handguns, 124 bullets, one silencer, two magazines and 24 cartons filled with pouches containing the nimetazepam tablets, which is a Class 3 narcotic drug.
Photo copied by Chiu Chun-fu, Taipei Times
“We found up to 10 Erimin tablets in each pouch. [The pouches] weighed 217kg in total, with an estimated street value of NT$300 million [US$9.87 million],” said police Captain Hsiao Juei-hao (蕭瑞豪) with the bureau’s Third Investigation Corps.
Hsiao, whose unit monitored the drug ring ahead of the raids, said two of the suspects, surnamed Cho (卓) and Kuo (郭), masterminded the smuggling operations, while the two other men helped them.
They all face charges on contravening the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例), Hsiao said.
Background checks showed that Cho, 35, is a member of the Four Seas gang and Kuo, 26, is from the Bamboo Union gang, two of Taiwan’s major organized crime syndicates.
Initial checks did not indicate any gang connections for the other suspects.
The authorities are focusing on Cho and Kuo’s connections, and an investigation has been launched to determine whether other gang members or people are involved in the case, Hsiao said.
Bureau investigators found that Kuo had rented an apartment in Wugu District (五股) to store the pouches.
Cho drove a truck to deliver the drugs from their source and arrange transportation for Kuo, investigators found.
“This case is related to one from August last year, when 800kg of Erimin were seized at Keelung Port, hidden in seafood to be placed on cargo ships destined for Malaysia,” Hsiao said.
“We busted that ring, and formed a team to follow up and conduct surveillance to find the drugs’ supplier, which led us to this smuggling ring,” he said.
The street price of one Erimin tablet is about NT$250, while it has a value of about NT$400 in Southeast Asian countries, the bureau said.
Erimin in powder form is one of the main ingredients of the “narcotic coffee powder,” a mixture of narcotics and stimulants disguised as coffee that is popular in Taiwan, it said.
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