Five Indians, including a college student, have been arrested in southwestern Kunming city for allegedly trying to smuggle 27kg of hashish into China, a charge that could lead to severe punishment.
The suspects – residents of Kidderpore area of Kolkata -- were caught at Kunming airport in two separate cases in the past two weeks. In the first case, the drugs were allegedly hidden in packets of branded “bhujia” (a crispy snack) popular in India, and in the second seizure, the hashish was sliced into thin layers and allegedly hidden inside the foams in new laptop bags.
The men have denied any wrongdoing and claimed they were unaware of the drugs.
Smuggling drugs is a serious offence in China. Last year, China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) said serious drug crimes merit the death penalty.
Chinese customs officers arrested two men from Kolkata on August 26 and seized nine kilograms of the drug from them.
The officials conducted a search when their newly upgraded scanning machine showed small, black tightly wound packets inside the zipped bags of bhujia. On closer inspection, the officials found hashish hidden inside around 60 packets of the popular snack.
The second seizure was made on September 6, when the three other men were arrested.
Officials became suspicious when they saw the trio carrying three bulky bags with new laptop bags inside them.
A scan of the laptop bags – around 80 in number - revealed the hashish though the contraband was cleverly wrapped in carbon paper. The malleable drug had been flattened and sliced into thin layers that were placed inside the layers of foam used in new bags.
The five suspects, aged between 22 and 46, were on their way to Shenzhen. One of the suspects is a student of Syama Prasad College in Kolkata. At least one of the suspects has been to China several times.
It is suspected the ring might have smuggled drugs into China earlier.
Under Chinese criminal law, a person can be sentenced to 15 years in prison, life imprisonment or death for – among other drug-related crimes - selling more than 1 kg of opium, more than 50g of heroin or methamphetamine, or a very large quantity of other drugs.
Serious cases involving “drug lords, professional drug dealers or re-offenders”, as well as “drug smuggling, organised transnational drug crime and armed or violent drug crime” could result in capital sentences, according to a circular released by the SPC and quoted by the The Diplomat.
In July, 23-year-old Colombian model Juliana Lopez was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being caught carrying cocaine at Guangzhou in south China.