CNMI Customs confiscate $700K ‘ice’ at post office

PHOTO: CNMI Customs Biosecurity

The Division of Customs and Biosecurity confiscated 4.9 pounds of crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’) with a street value of US$700,000 at the post office in Chalan Kanoa on Saturday, the largest drug haul in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas in five years.

The Superior Court on Monday imposed a US$1 million cash bail on 48-year-old Yuzhu Zhang who, authorities said, attempted to smuggle the illegal drugs through mail from California.

Three plastic bags containing methamphetamine were found in a box of chinaware that was shown to the media at the Customs office in the seaport warehouse in Puerto Rico on Monday.

Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig thanked customs officers for their due diligence in doing their jobs as they continue to protect the CNMI from illicit drugs and other contrabands.

Mafnas said a Customs contraband enforcement officer, Franklin Sablan, discovered the illegal drugs during a routine inspection at the Chalan Kanoa post office.

The package of chinaware “didn’t look right,” and when Sablan took a closer look he discovered meth concealed in the narrow spaces between the pieces.

Mafnas said it was the largest amount of meth CNMI Customs has intercepted at a point of entry in about six years. The last biggest haul was the 19 kilos (over 41 pounds) of crystal meth intercepted at the Saipan Sea Port in 2016, he said.

From October 2017 to 30 September, 2018, Customs records show that a total of 2.78 grams of crystal meth, 128.20 grams of cocaine, 96 pills of methylenedioxymethamphetamine or ecstasy and 145.6 grams of “other drugs” were intercepted at different points of entry in the CNMI. There are three primary points of entry for possible contrabands in the CNMI: the seaport, the airport and the post office.

In 2019, 1.1 grams of illegal drugs were intercepted.

Customs Captain John Henry Sablan of the Contraband Enforcement Bureau said Officer Franklin Sablan did what he was supposed to do and what he was taught to do in the academy.

Captain Sablan said drug smugglers are “creative,” so Customs officers are trained to look out for “signs” that something was tampered or is not the way it was supposed to be.

He said it costs more to deal with the situation when illegal drugs reach the community. “But when Customs stops contraband at the port, it ends there,” Mafnas added.