The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said it seized 4,670 pounds of methamphetamine last week near the coast of Penang Island. File Photo by Kaesler Media/Shutterstock
Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Malaysia said its agents have made the largest-ever interception of illicit drugs in the country's history after a boat chase that led to the arrest of one suspect.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said it seized 4,670 pounds of methamphetamine, or crystal meth, worth about $26 million, The Star and Bernama news agency reported Monday.
Zubil Mat, head of the Malaysian coast guard, said the boat carrying drugs was detected last week near Pulau Kendi, on the southwestern tip of Penang Island, near George Town.
"The patrol team approached the boat and ordered the man to stop. However, instead of turning off the engine, the man increased the throttle," the official said.
The coast guard chief said the suspect jumped into the water after a 30-minute chase, leaving the boat unmanned.
"We detained him and managed to stop the boat so as not to endanger other vessels in the area, " the official said.
The methamphetamine was packed in 1,998 Chinese tea packets, stored in 130 yellow sacks, according to Zubil.
The suspect, who remains under investigation, reportedly said he was paid between $1,200 and $2,500 per trip. The man would change boats and the boat he would leave at sea would be driven back by another party, "back to a neighboring country," Zubil said.
The suspect's boat, estimated to be worth $37,000, has been confiscated, the official added.
Zubil also said agents believe the drugs were smuggled out from Myanmar's Golden Triangle, a jungle area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar converge.
The Golden Triangle was one of the largest producers of illicit drugs, including heroin.
Drug addiction is a major social issue in Malaysia. The government has encouraged treatment but few addicts come forward.
Malaysia's National Anti-Drug Agency said earlier this month only 19% of addicts receive treatment on a voluntary basis because of economic constraints, according to Malay Mail.