MANILA, Philippines – A woman carrying five children's books in which $ 3.3-million of cocaine worth $ 30 million was hidden was stuck at Terminal 3 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Ma Clara Bedico, 28, was about to leave for Thailand to deliver the drugs when agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) took her into custody along with Alvin Avila, who had booked the flight, on March 28.
A follow-up operation the next day led to the arrest in the town of Pasig de Antonette Mendiola, the alleged recruiter of Bedico.
The suspects would be accused of possessing and transporting dangerous drugs.
Deputy director of the NBI, Vicente de Guzman III, told reporters on Monday that Bedico was on his way to Thailand to deliver the contraband. From there, she would travel to Brazil to get more cocaine.
The new batch of drugs would be shipped back to Manila to be repackaged and returned to Thailand by Bedico, De Guzman added.
Bedico's seized cocaine was found in five imported children's books. A cardboard had been pasted into the back of the cover of each book, creating a pocket where the drugs were hidden. The books were individually wrapped in plastic.
NBI spokesman Auralyn Pascual said they conducted the operation based on a tip.
When the members of the Special Action Unit (AUC) of the NBI went to the airport, they found the suspect and Avila in a restaurant waiting for Bedico flight.
A search of the suspect's luggage yielded the five books. Tests later confirmed that the substance in the books was cocaine.
The incident prompted NBI-SAU chief Emeterio Dongallo Jr. to issue this warning to those departing abroad, particularly Filipino overseas workers (OFWs): "Beware of this seduction."
He urged travelers to beware of people who would ask them to carry books, toys, or diamonds as they may contain contraband, including drugs.
Dongallo said the OFWs women were the favorite messengers of the drug rings. Bedico, however, posed as a tourist.
The NBI said it is still trying to determine how the drugs transported by Bedico passed by airport security personnel, although Dongallo noted that cocaine was "undetectable" by X-ray machines.
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