Authorities seized nearly half a million dollars’ worth of drugs that were found concealed in silicon tubes inside a shipping container from China last Jan. 15, Wednesday.
The drugs—crystal methamphetamine or “ice”—were discovered during a routine inspection at the CNMI Division of Customs last week, according to CNMI Customs director Jose C. Mafnas.
Speaking during a news briefing yesterday at the Office of the Governor conference room, Mafnas said the drugs were hidden inside 24 silicon tubes that were inside a “general merchandise” container from China.
A field test on the contraband shows them to be presumptive positive for crystal meth, said Mafnas.
“These were all concealed inside silicon tubes similar to sealants,” he added.
The confiscated crystal meth’s total weight is 2.12 lbs and, with the estimated street value of $500 per gram, the total value for the drugs, had it slipped through the ports, is about $481,000. This make it Customs’ biggest bust since 2018.
“This would have not been a successful interception if it wasn’t for the assistance of our law enforcement partners, the local Drug Enforcement Task Force, DEA, the Division of Quarantine, the U.S. Homeland Security Investigation, and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Unit,” Mafnas said.
Shipped from China
When asked about the consignee, Mafnas said that while Customs has the name, they will not be able to provide any names of businesses or individuals as the investigation is still ongoing. The only information the director gave is that the consignee is a Chinese national, and is not on the island.
The shipper, on the other hand, according to Mafnas, is known in the law enforcement community due to his drug business.
“I am informed that he [consignee] is banned from entering [the] U.S. He used to live here, is banned from entering the U.S.A. or any territory, so he’s operating his business out of China,” the director said.
“We do have his name and, with the partnership of our federal law enforcement… we can push to inform the Chinese authorities of this person so the China government can do something about it. Just to stop him from conducting his business or sending this kind of stuff over to the CNMI,” he added.
‘It’s better to stop at the ports’
Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, who was also at yesterday’s news briefing, said the intercepted contraband explains why Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has identified solving the drug problem in the Commonwealth as a major priority, inclusive of enforcement.
“The Commonwealth community continues to see the tragedies that methamphetamine has done to our people in our community. We still deal with it today. We see families broken up, folks continue that tragedy that continues to beset our community,” said Palacios.
“It has been a challenge and it will continue to be a challenge, but today, we want to extend our appreciation to all our enforcement agencies, particularly Customs, DEA, and our local drug enforcement under DPS,” he added.
Palacios added had the drugs gone out to the streets and into the communities, addressing the impact would be “exponentially higher.” He highlighted costs of rehabilitation programs and services that are provided to members of the community who have become victims of the drug pandemic.
“I don’t think I need to continue to talk about it because we all know what happens if these drugs have gone out to our community. I’m not talking about just the streets. I am talking about families, young people, fathers, and mothers that have been impacted by the scourge of drug addiction in our community.”
Finance Secretary David Atalig joined Palacios and Mafnas in expressing appreciation to Customs and all enforcement officers who were part of the interception.
“I’m very proud of our Customs officers, our Customer Services Division, for the hard work of our Customs officers in doing what they need to do, [which] is [to] protect our borders and intercept contrabands like this from the port.”
“It helps our community overall,” Atalig said. “Like Director Mafnas mentioned, it is cheaper because we intercepted at the ports. We stopped it. We don’t have to worry about public safety, going out and trying to prevent this from getting further in the street and the community.”
Message to drug dealers
Mafnas wants drug dealers out there to know that Customs is not alone at the ports. “We have many law enforcement partners, both with the local and with the federal government law enforcement. We’re not alone. Whenever there’s a target, we call them up to assist us in doing all the inspection. The more, the better enforcement.”
“We also appreciate when the concerned private citizen would give a call and say, “I heard about this”…We don’t take that lightly, we take it seriously and take the information and look into it,” he added.