A police officer at the Jeonbuk Police Agency, about 240 kilometers south of Seoul, pours out methamphetamine from a vitamin package on Monday. (Yonhap)
JEONJU -- A group of Thai nationals has been apprehended for allegedly smuggling narcotics worth tens of millions of dollars into South Korea, local police said Monday.
The Jeonbuk Police Agency said they were investigating seven illegal immigrants from Thailand on charges of trafficking some 5 kilograms of methamphetamine and 10,000 tablets of "ya ba," a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine, and selling them to fellow Thais working in South Korea from September.
The drugs were worth about 15.3 billion won (US$13.5 million) and enough to be used by 170,000 and 10,000 people at once, respectively, according to the police.
The suspects were found to have disguised the drugs as vitamin products popular in Thailand and shipped them through the international Express Mail Service (EMS).
The police said the customs authorities have had difficulties in identifying and seizing narcotics due to increased international shipments amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Investigators said that the suspects have been trafficking drugs into Korea systematically.
One of the suspects, 27 years old, delivered smuggled narcotics to dealers in different regions, including the central Chungcheong provinces and southwestern Jeolla provinces, to sell them to local Thai workers.
The criminal proceeds were exchanged to Baht through Thai supermarkets here and then sent to their home country.
The police said they were tracking down more suppliers and dealers allegedly related to the case.
"We will beef up probes on foreign drug suppliers and users as similar cases are on the rise among foreign nationals, particularly Thais working at local factories and farms," they added. (Yonhap)