Thursday, December 2, 2010

Drug syndicates using Facebook to recruit young women as mules By LESTER KONG

Published: Thursday December 2, 2010 MYT 2:49:00 PM
Updated: Thursday December 2, 2010 MYT 3:03:28 PM
Drug syndicates using Facebook to recruit young women as mules
By LESTER KONG

The drug mule situation is turning “from bad to worse”, says Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem.

KUALA LUMPUR: Social networking site Facebook is fast becoming a hunting ground for fresh drug mules by international syndicates.

The Foreign Ministry is alarmed that more varsity-age Malaysian girls using Facebook were being lured by drug syndicates’ promises of significant rewards to ferry drugs for them, said deputy minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem.

“Most victims are befriended through Facebook. It (Facebook) can be a good friend. But it’s also a dangerous friend,” Richard told journalists during a courtesy call on Thursday.

Richard said that the ministry had found that most of the victims were befriended by syndicate members of African origin.

He explained that syndicates, after befriending their victims, would offer to pay for ‘holidays’ overseas, usually China, Japan and Latin America.

Some would even offer their victims thousands of ringgit in pocket money to spend on the trip.

The victims would also be asked to meet a ‘friend’ who would be the tour guide at the destination.

“And Nigerians and South Africans were involved in most cases, sad to say,” he said.

Richard added that photos provided by victims of their Facebooks ‘friends’ who asked for help to carry their bags or deliver a ‘gift’ to people in other countries “were not very good looking and black”.

International survey firm TNS last month reported that Malaysians had the most ‘friends’ on Facebook and spent nine hours daily on average surfing the site of more than 500 millions members.

On the Ministry’s response, he said that a weekly programme on RTM was being aired to raise awareness among young people.

“We have a slot on RTM where we provide advice on various issues for youth. But we stress a need for Malaysians to be very cautious when going overseas,” he said.

He also urged the group of 20 local and foreign journalists from the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Uzbekistan and Mongolia under the Malaysian Press Institute’s yearly Fellowship programme to raise awareness of Asians being victimised by international drug syndicates.

Richard said the drug mule situation was turning “from bad to worse”.

He said 785 of 1560 Malaysians arrested overseas since 1991 were drug mules of which 149 were women.

Of those, 70 have been sentenced to death for trafficking of illicit drugs.

The latest case was 22-year-old Cristina Luke Niju from Sabah in final semester at a polytechnic in Sarawak who was arrested with 1.4 kg of narcotics in Guangzhou, China last month.

“Young people especially girls must be more cautious. They can be easy prey to syndicates and their empty promises,” he said.

He also urged Malaysians travelling out of the country not to be taken in by persuasive people requesting help to carry their bags because of “excessive baggage weight”.

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