AN international drug smuggling operation stretching all the way from Nigeria to Bahrain has been busted by police.
It was exposed when a drug mule arrived at Bahrain International Airport carrying 3.1kg of crystal meth, known locally as Shabu, and 177.4gm of marijuana in his luggage.
An investigation identified a Bahraini inmate at Jaw Prison, aged 30, as the mastermind behind the operation – who allegedly used his own father and brother to distribute the merchandise.
Seven defendants, five Bahrainis and two Nigerians, are now standing trial in Bahrain’s High Criminal Court in connection with the racket.
Six of them appeared before judges for the first time yesterday to plead not guilty, while the alleged mastermind was not brought from his cell to attend the hearing.
An investigating officer said police had been on the trail of the gang since last year and swooped when a man arrived at the airport in April carrying drugs.
The drugs were in the possession of a 27-year-old Nigerian, who was intercepted by police after arriving on a flight from Nigeria via Dubai.
“I received a tip that the 30-year-old in jail was running a drug smuggling ring from his cell,” said the investigating officer in his statement.
“My investigations led to a 43-year-old Nigerian, who was running the operation with him and arranging with people outside Bahrain to smuggle Shabu from Nigeria.”
The drug mule was detained at the airport on April 19 after police, who received word that drugs were on board, searched all Nigerian passengers.
One of the Bahraini defendants, 37, who was allegedly responsible for distributing the drugs in Bahrain was waiting in arrivals to meet him.
“He (the alleged drug mule) told us the 37-year-old Bahraini was waiting in the lounge to receive him,” added the officer.
“When we asked the 37-year-old why he was there, he panicked and admitted he was there to pick up the 27-year-old drug mule and take him to the 43-year-old Nigerian’s apartment.”
The 30-year-old alleged mastermind behind the smuggling operation is already serving a 10-year prison sentence on another drugs charge.
He is said to have overseen the trafficking of narcotics from behind bars using a mobile phone that was smuggled to him.
The 43-year-old Nigerian defendant told prosecutors he had been dispatched to Bahrain by a drug lord in his own country to meet the alleged mastermind.
“Last January the drug lord Ojay, in Nigeria, told me to go to Bahrain and give Shabu to the 30-year-old Bahraini defendant,” he said.
“I arrived in Bahrain with around 1kg of Shabu and was received at the airport by the 37-year-old Bahraini, who took me to Juffair and gave me $2,000 as commission and BD1,000 to wire back to Ojay.
“He then wired the other BD1,000 to him.
“In early April I was instructed by the 30-year-old to smuggle two to three kilos of Shabu, so I called Ojay’s brother Paul in Nigeria to make the arrangements.
“He informed me that a Nigerian, the 27-year-old, would arrive in Bahrain on April 19 with the drugs and that the 37-year-old Bahraini was supposed to pick him up, bring him to me and receive the Shabu.
“I was surprised when police burst into my apartment on April 19 at 10am and arrested me.”
The following day a sting operation was arranged near a school, in Isa Town, and an undercover policeman met a 31-year-old Bahraini defendant to sell him 250gm of Shabu, which was intended for resale.
He instead handed over a bag of white sugar and police swooped to make the arrest.
However, during questioning the alleged mastermind denied any knowledge of the drug smuggling operation.
He admitted the 37-year-old was a former colleague, but claimed neither he, his brother nor his father were involved.
“I’ve been in Jaw Prison on another drug dealing charge for the past five years and I’ve got around four and a half years left on my sentence,” he told prosecutors.
“I was in another trial for drug possession when my lawyer informed me that my brother and father were also arrested on drug charges.
“A few days after that he told me the 37-year-old Bahraini claimed I was involved in this case – and that I run a drug smuggling operation with my brother and father as distributors, which is not true.”
The two Nigerian defendants, 43 and 27, have been charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamines and marijuana.
The 43-year-old Nigerian was also charged with possession of pornographic material on his phone and failing to renew his residency permit.
The alleged mastermind’s 60-year-old Bahraini father has been charged with possessing and using methamphetamines and hashish, while his 29-year-old brother has been charged with possession with intent to distribute, as well as funding the operation.
In addition, the 37-year-old Bahraini arrested at the airport is charged with receiving narcotics with intent to distribute.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Bahraini arrested as he allegedly attempted to buy Shabu from an undercover officer has been charged with receiving narcotics with intent to distribute and possession of amphetamines and Diazepam.
The alleged mastermind is facing charges of possession with intent to sell drugs, inciting others to commit the crime and providing funding.
Their trial has been adjourned until September 9.
© 2018 the Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.