Used By Permission of The Star - Nation
Sunday December 30, 2007
Dream career or drug courier?
PETALING JAYA: It is a dream job at an international company dealing with the import-export of goods. The office is swanky with various branches overseas. Cool boss, good money and if you are lucky, the chance to travel ¨C what more could a fresh graduate ask for?
More than they bargained for, apparently, as some young Malaysians have recently discovered.
One is Umi Azlim Mohamad Lazim, a 24-year-old graduate of Universiti Malaysia Sabah, who was enticed by a high-paying courier job advertised on the Net early this year. She was caught at Shantou airport in China with 2,983g of heroin in her luggage. She has been sentenced to death.
Another is Raja Munirah Raja Iskandar, 22, a mass communication student at a private college in Cyberjaya, who travelled to Japan to be interviewed for a well-paid job last year, as recommended by her Iranian friend.
She is languishing in a Japanese jail, serving a seven-year jail term after being caught with drugs at the Narita International Airport.
News reports reveal that in the past 11 months, about 32 Malaysian women between the ages of 20 and 40 had been arrested for their involvement as couriers.
Federal narcotics department director Comm Datuk Mohd Bakri Mohd Zinin said that while there are a few who were tricked into trafficking drugs by their foreign friends or acquaintances, many of the young women were lured by good money and free overseas trips.
He believes the number of women involved in smuggling drugs could be much higher than what's on police record. There are also many women consciously working for drug syndicates.
¡°Up to now, over 30 women, mostly in their 20s, have been nabbed but we won¡¯t be surprised if the number of women acting as couriers is triple that,¡± he said.
Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek agreed that many were inexperienced and unaware of the foreign country's laws and culture.
¡°Their cases show a similar pattern: many of them are first-time travellers and had just got their passports,¡± he said.
Lawyer Rosal Azimin Ahmad, who was hired by Raja Munirah's family to help defend her, pointed out that international drug syndicates have a new modus operandi.
¡°Many syndicates use the cover of international companies to lure young women with big salaries and travel opportunities. They prey on young people's ambition to make fast money without working too hard. Unfortunately, many of them are easily conned because they are simply too impatient to get rich,¡± he said.
He added it was getting more difficult to distinguish between a real business entity and a drug syndicate as many now go the extra mile to put up a facade of legitimacy.
¡°The syndicates now make a lot of money so they can afford to set up an office while their members live and dress well.
¡°They can also afford to take time to gain not only their target's confidence but also that of the family and friends.
¡°For work, they offer the young women different positions, not a courier's job. When they are settled in, maybe six months down the road, they will be sent on an overseas assignment,¡± he said.
¡¤ Reports by LEE YUK PENG, MANJIT KAUR, ANDREW SAGAYAM and HARIATI AZIZAN