DRUGS FOUND IN LUGGAGE

By: Norman V. Mendoza July 20,2016 - 11:18 PM
SHABU SEIZED: Customs officials led by Customs District Collector Rico Rey Francis Holganza (right) seized 4.2 kilos of suspected shabu from a Chinese woman Zhou Liming, who arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport via a Cathy Pacific flight from Hong Kong. The alleged contraband was placed in a secret compartment in her blue trolly bag. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO and  FERDINAND EDRALIN)

SHABU SEIZED: Customs officials led by Customs District Collector Rico Rey Francis Holganza (right) seized 4.2 kilos of suspected shabu from a Chinese woman Zhou Liming, who arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport via a Cathy Pacific flight from Hong Kong. The alleged contraband was placed in a secret compartment in her blue trolly bag. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO and FERDINAND EDRALIN)

An attractive young Chinese woman in green dress looked uneasy lining up for inspection at the arrival area of the Mactan Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City shortly before noon on Wednesday.

Zhou Liming turned pale when Customs examiners found 11 packs inside a secret compartment of her light blue trolley bag.

When the white powdery substance was found positive to be shabu worth P6.2 million, Zhou burst into tears and was shaking.

Zhou, 27, from Hunan City in China, denied owning the bag when she was presented to the media past 5 p.m.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mariano So, because she could only speak Mandarin, Zhou said that a female cousin and the latter’s Canadian lover asked her to bring the luggage to Cebu.

Zhou, who claimed to be a nurse working in a hospital in Hunan, said her cousin arranged her trip to Cebu City — her third since the issuance of her passport on Jan. 15, 2016. Her passport is to expire on Jan. 14, 2026.

Her first visit to Cebu City was in March and then another in May. The stay didn’t last long — only three to four days.

The arrangement was two Filipinos — a man and a woman — were supposed to fetch her from the airport and bring her to a hotel located about 10 minutes away.

She was supposed to stay in Cebu for three days before her flight back to Hunan on July 23.

The Bureau of Customs turned Zhou over to the Aviation Security Unit in Central Visayas (AVSEU-7) headed by Senior Supt. Ritchie Posadas.

Posadas said Zhou would be detained at the AVSEU-7 pending the filing of charges against her for violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

He added that they would also conduct investigation to determine the identity of the two persons who were supposed to pick Zhou up from the airport.
Zhou arrived at 11:30 a.m. from Hunan through Hong Kong on board a Cathay Pacific flight CX 921, bringing with her a red knapsack and a light blue trolley bag.

While passengers were lining up at the X-ray machine at the airport’s International Arrival Area, Olibert Estillore, K-9 officer of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), noticed Zhou looking so uneasy and kept going to the toilet.

It was learned that the X-ray machine at the airport’s arrival area was put up only last year.

The 4 kilos of suspected shabu from a Chinese woman Liming Zhou onboard a Cathy Pacific flight from Hong Kong at the Mactan Airport. (CDN PHOTO/FERDINAND EDRALIN)

The 4 kilos of suspected shabu from a Chinese woman Liming Zhou onboard a Cathy Pacific flight from Hong Kong at the Mactan Airport. (CDN PHOTO/FERDINAND EDRALIN)

When it was her turn, X-ray machine operator Haron Paragona of the Bureau of Customs detected several packs inside her light blue trolley bag.

Zhou was asked to step aside as Customs personnel Ronor Alinsug and Albert Barliso inspected her bag and found several female dresses inside.

Alinsug and Barliso, however, noticed that there was a glossy plywood that served as a compartment in her luggage.

Zhou looked pale when the two officers found 11 big packs after destroying the compartment. The two K-9 dogs immediately sat after sniffing on the packs, indicating that these contained illegal drugs.

The woman burst into tears and was shaking when told that she had to be detained for bringing in illegal drugs into the country.

When the contents were tested, the Customs examiners found that the white powdery substance was methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

The packs of shabu weighed 4.2 kilos which the PDEA pegged to be worth P6.2 million.

Jay Oyao, MCIA Customs officer-in-charge, said it took a while to speak to Zhou because they had to wait for an interpreter because the suspect could not speak English.

Nigel Paul Villarete, general manager of the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), lauded the arrest of Zhou although he admitted that their anti-drug efforts relied mainly on law enforcement agencies operating at the airport.

“Our anti-drugs efforts fully hinged on the capability of the different units operating at MCIA. That’s why we go out of our way to maintain close coordination with PDEA and Customs. What is important is that Customs will have sufficient detection equipment to screen illegal drugs and related substances. We are also in the process of signing the interdiction agreement with PDEA for all stakeholders in the aerodrome to cooperate against this menace,” Villarete said in an online interview.

Villarete also assured that they will strengthen the airport’s capability to detect illegal drugs for departing passengers.

“I think the challenge now is to strengthen the capability to detect illegal drugs for departing passengers. It’s easier (to detect drugs from) arriving passengers because of the Customs X-ray (machines) and PDEA K-9 dogs. Currently the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) is concentrating on firearms and explosives especially with the threat of terrorism. We need to strengthen this area of concern,” he added. /with a report from Jhunnex Napallacan

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