Indonesia steps up monitoring of Hong Kong flights after 'significant' rise in drug-trafficking cases
Jakarta airport official cites 'significant increase' in narcotics trafficking from China
Indonesian authorities are stepping up monitoring of flights from Hong Kong and mainland China in the wake of what officials call a "significant" increase in the number of drug-trafficking cases originating from China.
Indonesia has long been plagued by organised crime syndicates from Hong Kong and mainland China who move the drug methamphetamine - also known as Ice - from factories in Guangdong, Indonesian police and the UN say.
However, a spike in the number of cases so far this year - including one last month in which a 17-year-old man from Hong Kong was arrested with several kilos of Ice - have prompted officials at the nation's airports to step up profiling of passengers from the greater China area. The Indonesian consulate in Hong Kong confirmed that would include flights from the city.
A spokesman said more than 20 drug smuggling cases so far this year had involved flights from Hong Kong.
"It is a lot. It is a significant increase," the spokesman said.
Passengers from Malaysia will also be subject to extra scrutiny given the country's role in the regional drugs trade, Indonesian officials said.
"Every passenger arriving on flights from Malaysia and China will be given special attention by customs officers because many passengers from there have so far been caught carrying narcotics," Okto Irianto, head of customs at Jakarta's international airport, told state news agency Antara.
Okto said not all drug smugglers were Chinese or Malaysian, but they tended to depart from the two countries.
Last month, two Hong Kong men were arrested trying to smuggle US$600,000 of meth from Hong Kong into Indonesia. Under Indonesia's tough drugs laws, smuggling as little as five grams of drugs can be punishable by death.
One of the men, a 17-year-old identified only by his initials CK, was the youngest person ever caught trying to traffic drugs through Jakarta's international airport, Okto said.
The arrests come just weeks after police seized 90kg of meth from a Hong Kong woman in Jakarta's largest drugs bust in two years.
Domestic helper rights groups say Hong Kong triads have targeted the city's more than 140,000 Indonesian workers. In February, Indonesia's narcotics agency, BNN, cracked a number of drug trafficking cases originating in Hong Kong, one involving an Indonesian maid.
Both Hong Kong police and the Security Bureau have consistently denied that the city is a transit point for drug smugglers.
"Hong Kong is neither a major narcotics production centre nor a significant illicit drug transshipment point," a police spokesman said. "However, Hong Kong may be used as an irregular transit point due to its status as a highly efficient financial and transportation hub."
Ice is soaring in popularity across Asia, with record regional seizures last year of nearly 230 million methamphetamine pills and 11.6 metric tonnes of crystalline methamphetamine, according to UN statistics.