Largest drug haul in five years: CNMI Customs seizes 4.9 lbs of meth


The Division of Customs and Biosecurity on Saturday seized 4.9 pounds of crystal methamphetamine with a street value of US$700,000 at the post office in Chalan Kanoa, the largest drug haul in the CNMI 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 presented to the media at the Customs office in the seaport warehouse in Puerto Rico on Monday.

Customs Director Jose Mafnas relayed to the Customs officers the message of Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig who extended his appreciation and gratitude 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 of Chinaware.

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 or 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.

Mafnas is hoping that the 31 cadets of the first cycle of the Northern Marianas College customs class will “work hard and do their best” so they can be like Officer Sablan.

Mafnas said he is very proud of Customs officers who ensure that no contraband will reach the community.

He said Customs has an adequate number of officers at all the points of entry in the CNMI, noting that the division also has marine and canine units.

He said a quarantine unit has also been added to Customs, which, he added, continues to recruit cadets from Saipan, Tinian and Rota to make sure that “we have more than an adequate number of officers to man our points of entry to prevent the entry of contraband.”

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.