TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Last June, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) successfully foiled an attempt to smuggle one ton of crystal methamphetamine into the country from Taiwan via the Anyer port in Banten. As the chief of the agency, Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso was showered with compliments, including from President Joko Widodo, for what is being dubbed as the largest drug bust in Indonesian history. Waseso responds coolly to all of those praises. "That is not something great," Budi said.
Budi, 56, instead regretted the failure to prevent the smuggling of an even bigger haul—five tons of crystal meth—from Taiwan in May. He added that this amount pales in comparison to the 250 tons brought in from China into Indonesia throughout last year.
From a crystal meth warehouse raid in Jakarta, to the alleged arrival of flakka—a powerful and highly addictive designer drug—to Indonesian shores and the drug arrests of celebrities, Indonesia has recently been bombarded with news on drugs. "That means we are working," remarked Buwas, as the former chief of the National Police Detectives is familiarly known.
The work at the BNN requires him to be at his office in Cawang, East Jakarta, at 6am each day. Normal working hours, which begin at 8am, are not adequate for him to complete his duties as BNN chief.
Last Monday, Budi met Tempo’s Setri Yasra, Linda Trianita, Mitra Tarigan, Reza Maulana and Raymundus Rikang at his office. He spoke with candor about the difficulties he faced in coordinating various Indonesian institutions in the war against drugs. He blamed ‘territorial mentality and ego’ in disclosing drug cases between law enforcement agencies and BNN’s limited budget and equipment.
What role did the BNN play in thwarting the smuggling attempt of a ton of crystal meth in Anyer?
The BNN and the police cooperated on that one. We received preliminary information from Taiwanese intelligence and shared it with our law enforcement agencies. We collaborated on that information.
Tempo received information that there were differences in opinion among officers ahead of the bust.
The BNN and the police analyzed it differently. The BNN didn’t want to move too quickly because we wanted to uncover a wider and deeper network whilst the police preferred to move on this information straight away for fear of losing the trail. It doesn’t matter if our analyses differ, does it?
Did the police coordinate the raid with the BNN?
We coordinated everything. BNN was the source of the preliminary information.
Was there an even bigger smuggling attempt earlier?
Before the fasting month, we were hit by a major blow involving five tons of crystal meth from Taiwan. We detected the network but they used communications technology that evaded our detection. We failed to stop them. When we approached, we lost the trail. I can’t divulge the details because we are still investigating.
Did all five tons of the crystal meth make its way into the country?
Yes. It’s probably now already in circulation across Indonesia. All were ready for use products. Five tons is nothing, actually. The Chinese and Taiwanese narcotics agencies informed us that 250 tons of crystal meth were brought into Indonesia throughout 2016. Based on our evaluation, not a single package has gone out of the country. All of it has been used in Indonesia.
Isn’t that figure (250 tons) too large?
This information makes sense. According to research conducted by the University of Indonesia, there are six million drug users in Indonesia. From simple calculations, a user needs a gram every week. It means the market needs six tons a week and 24 tons a month. Annually, it’s 250 tons.
Outside of China, which other countries supply these drugs?
Many countries. The Netherlands, Germany, the US, India, Pakistan, Thailand. There are 72 international networks detected in Indonesia.
Did the collapse of the drug market in the Philippines following President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs have any impact on Indonesia?
Yes, it collapsed and immediately shifted to Indonesia. In mid-July, Thai police informed us about the seizure of a drug container from the Philippines which had been destined for Indonesia.
Is it true that flakka is already in Indonesia?
We detected signs of shipments, but we do not know as yet about the network. Flakka can trigger frenzied body movements. Users don’t feel pain even after throwing themselves at walls. It’s quite powerful. We strongly suspect that it comes from Europe. Sooner or later, the drug will be widely used in Indonesia.
Why are you convinced of this?
Drug users in Indonesia have unique characteristics. All kinds of illegal drugs are available here, and they sell quite well. From commonly known illegal drugs already out there, there are 65 new ones now, including flakka. Here, they even enjoy sniffing glue. Unlike drug users in Russia, for example, who prefer only heroin, cocaine and morphine. Only four types (of illegal drugs) sell well in France and five in the Netherlands.
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine