Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
THREE foreign nationals have been arrested at the country’s airports between September and this month while trying to smuggle heroin to India with a combined street value running into millions of dollars.
Government has attributed the arrests to vigilance and increased surveillance by the country’s security agents.
Vitalis Kudrjasovs (27) who had a Latvian passport, was arrested on September 8 at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare following a tip off.
He was in possession of heroin which he intended to smuggle to India. Security details observed him as he went through check-in, immigration and customs formalities and he was arrested as he was about to board an Ethiopian Airlines flight en route to India.
His luggage was put in a security scanner leading to the discovery of the suspicious package. A further search led to the recovery of heroin with a street value of ZW$ 6,96 million which was concealed in the lining of his bag.
Kudrjasovs has since appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court on charges of dealing in dangerous drugs and was remanded in custody to tomorrow for trial.
On October 1,Shaik Zeenat Khatoon Rafiq (43) of Mumbai in India was arrested by detectives at the Victoria Falls Airport for attempting to smuggle heroin with a street value of US$500 000.
She intended to board an Ethiopian Airline to Addis Ababa en-route to India. Rafiq was found with heroine stuffed in the lining of her travelling bag at the airport’s scanning point.
During the same month, Ronald Florentius Paes (66) was arrested at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport after he was found with heroin with a street value of ZW $5,84 million which he intended to smuggle to India.
The police intercepted the Paes after he had gone through all check-in formalities. He was arrested when he was about to have his luggage loaded onto the plane.
The detectives took his bags to the scanners and it was discovered that it contained suspicious contents, which were tested and it was discovered that it was heroin. Paes had boarding passes to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia en route to India on Ethiopian Airlines.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage permanent secretary Mr Aaron Nhepera said the Government will continue to utilise all machinery and human power at its disposal to fight drug trafficking.
He said it was worrying that the drugs were now finding their way into the local market.
“Our security apparatus have been making arrests at our ports which is highly commendable as it shows that they are vigilant and that our surveillance systems are effective. Our major concern however is that these drugs are now finding their way into the local market,” said Mr Nhepera.
Zimbabwe is facing an increase in cases of drug abuse and the Government recently launched a National Drug Policy to address the problem which is affecting mostly the youths.
Acting regional immigration officer Mr Lucky Matyora recently told members of the Bulawayo provincial and national inter-ministerial Taskforce on Drug and Substance Abuse that drug traffickers were using mostly Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport.
He said they are also exploiting Zimbabweans as drug mules for easy transportation of hard drugs and using the country as a transit route to countries such as South Africa, China and India where they have the markets.
It has been established that most drug traffickers come from West Africa, South America and the Middle East and use Zimbabwe as a transit route.