An international drug syndicate whose alleged members are on trial for drug trafficking in a US court has reportedly stockpiled one ton of North Korean methamphetamines in the Philippines for storage.
Court documents presented by US prosecutors to a court in New York said defendants Ye Tiong Tan Lim and Kelly Allan Reyes Peralta made the claim.
Lim and Peralta were among the five arrested in a sting operation in Thailand in September 2013 on suspicion of preparing to ship 100 kilos of “dangerously pure North Korean methamphetamines” to the US by boat.
Methamphetamines are known as shabu in the Philippines.
Scott Stammers, a 46-year-old Briton and one of the defendants pleaded guilty to the charge on Thursday.
He faces 10 years to life in prison when sentenced at a future date by a US judge. Three of the other defendants pleaded guilty earlier this month.
The fifth, 32-year-old Philip Shackels, is scheduled to go on trial in New York on September 21.
Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara thanked authorities in Liberia, Romania and Thailand for assisting with the US investigation.
“Stammers’ scheme ended not with the North Korean methamphetamine flooding American streets as he had intended, but rather with a guilty plea in a Manhattan federal court,” he said in a statement.
Authorities in the Philippines were unaware of the drug gang’s operations.
“Anybody can make a claim or make a statement, but he has to prove what he has asserted is true,” said Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman for the Philippine National Police, when asked about the revelation in the US court.
A source of The Manila Times in the National Bureau of Investigation said he was not aware of the case but said they have received information that syndicates with links to Korea are already in the country.
“We were tipped off by the DEA [US Drug Enforcement Agency)]but we have not caught anyone just yet,” the source said in the vernacular.
The source added that the proliferation of drugs from abroad was the reason why the street prices of shabu has gone down.
Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd, a known anti-illegal drugs advocate, said claims about drug syndicates using the Philippines as a storage area of illegal drugs is highly possible because of the lack of focus of the government on the drug problem.
“I’m afraid that could be true. They [drug syndicates]have made our country a transshipment point and given the lack of focus of government on the problem of illegal drugs, I am not surprised,” Sotto, who launched a high-profile anti-drug advocacy when he was vice mayor of Quezon City, added.
According to Sotto, drug syndicates choose the Philippines because of the country’s weak justice system as indicated by the poor conviction rate in drug-related cases in the country, which is only about 15 percent of the cases filed.
He said even President Benigno Aquino 3rd did not say something about the country’s drug problem in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July.
Sotto added that he also expected the same from Vice President Jejomar Binay, who also did not say anything about the illegal-drug problem in the country during his supposed “true” SONA.
“What we need is a full-blown overhaul of the drug control policy of the government,” he said.
According to him, he already proposed various measures on drug control but they have remained unheard because some lawmakers seems to be not interested in them.
An Associated Press report in 2013 said an international drug trafficker was caught on tape boasting about his ability to provide the US market with mass quantities of methamphetamine called the NK, which US authorities claim refers to North Korea.
“We have the NK product. It’s only us who can get it from NK,” court records quoting one of the defendants said.
According to the DEA, the five defendants were well-versed in dealing in military-grade weapons, technology and illegal drugs.
The AP report quoting authorities also identified a certain Joseph “Rambo” Hunter, a former US soldier who was accused of recruiting former soldiers to serve as members of a security team for drug traffickers, as an associate of the defendants.
In 2012, authorities seized 30 kilograms of methampetamines obtained in North Korea by two members of the Hong Kong-based criminal organization–Ye Tiong Tan Lim, a Hong Kong national, and Kelly Allan Reyes Peralta, a Filipino– with the help of Scott Stammers and Philip Shackels, both British subjects.
A source of this paper identified Peralta as the son of a politician.
Lim and Peralta, who reportedly met with undercover DEA agents, were recorded as saying they stockpiled a ton of methamptamines from North Korea in the Philippines.
Samples of the drug were intercepted by authorities, and laboratory testing found they were 98 percent and 96 percent pure, according to court papers.
The five defendants were arrested in September 2013 in Thailand where they allegedly gathered to receive payments and final instruction for the shipment of the drug.
With ANTHONY VARGAS and AFP