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Local drug smugglers target courier services

Published:Sunday | April 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green. - File

Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer

LOCAL DRUG traffickers have been turning to international courier services in their efforts to smuggle narcotics out of the country.

But this has not escaped the attention of law-enforcement officials.

According to Les Green, assistant commissioner of police with responsibility for the Criminal Investigation Bureau, for some time now, the security forces have had concerns about attempts to smuggle contraband through the courier services.

Only recently, members of the security forces searched the head offices of Federal Express, on Half-Way Tree Road in St Andrew.

A similar raid was carried out at the head offices of another courier service, DHL, on Haining Road in New Kingston.

"Based on our intelligence, we went there with dogs and searched the baggage area, but nothing was found," said Superintendent Wrenford Robinson, who led the operation at FedEx.

Employees of the company appeared unperturbed by the police presence as they attended to customers while members of the security forces searched packages in the baggage area at the back of the building.

Outside the building, several members of the force stood with their semi-automatic weapons at the ready.

Two FedEx employees who spoke with The Sunday Gleaner said they were unsure of what was happening, as they had no idea why the police were present.

"Don't let in any camera inside here," a member of staff was heard telling a security guard who stood by the glass door.

Sergeant Sheldon Coulson of the Narcotics Division told The Sunday Gleaner that the police have been observing increased efforts by drug dealers to smuggle narcotics overseas via courier services.

Coulson said the courier companies usually alerted the police whenever drugs were discovered in shipments and the packages confiscated.

"We typically get calls at least three times per week that they have located drugs," Coulson said.

Among the methods used by the drug smugglers to conceal narcotics for export are water coolers, guitars, courier envelopes, car engines, computers, amplifier racks and CD cases.

Contraband seized

Coulson said contraband was seized at DHL's head offices during last Tuesday's police raid, although he did not indicate the nature of the find.

He said two former DHL employees were held on suspicion of involvement with drug seizures in a previous operation but were eventually released due to the lack of evidence.

When contacted for comment, DHL responded in an emailed statement that it had implemented a security programme to "safeguard the company, employees and customers from illegal activities".

DHL further stated that it had been proactively monitoring and implementing measures to deal with the upsurge of drug smuggling in the region and had implemented procedures, equip-ment and personnel to deal with the increased threat.

A FedEx employee told The Sunday Gleaner she was unaware of last week's police raid or any attempts by persons to use the courier for smuggling narcotics.

Border Protection officers and US Customs have in the past seized narcotics sent through FedEx and DHL locations.

In January this year, several gang members were arrested in South Korea for smuggling drugs through Mexico via FedEx and selling them in Seoul.