JAKARTA, Indonesia — Sailors deployed to secure travel during the Eid al-Fitr holiday made Indonesia's biggest cocaine seizure after finding plastic packages of the drugs floating at sea, the navy said.
Indonesia is a major hub for drug trafficking in Southeast Asia and has strict drug laws, with convicted smugglers sometimes executed by firing squad.
The four black packages containing 179 kilograms (nearly 400 pounds) of cocaine worth 1.2 trillion rupiah ($82.6 million) were found floating near Merak port on Java island on Sunday, the navy’s deputy chief of staff said at a news conference Monday.
Smuggling drugs by throwing packages and a buoy into the sea is a common tactic, Vice Adm. Ahmadi Heri Purwono said. Smugglers likely put the drugs in the water near a port for them to be moved by a speedboat and were monitoring the packages when they were seized by the navy, he said.
“This is a spectacular seizure of cocaine, considering its huge value and the impact on the people as a result of the illicit drugs,” Purwono said. No one has been arrested, and authorities are still investigating, he said.
The officers who spotted the package were among 5,000 navy personnel deployed to secure Eid al-Fitr homecomings. Millions of Indonesians celebrate the holiday at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by traveling to see their families across the vast archipelago.
The U.N. drug office says Indonesia is a major smuggling hub in part because international drug syndicates target its young population. Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency estimates there are 5.6 million drug users in the country of 270 million people.
Most of the more than 150 people on Indonesia's death row were convicted of drug crimes. About one-third of them are foreigners. Its last executions were in 2016, when an Indonesian and three foreigners were shot by a firing squad.