MANILA, May 4, 2011 (AFP) – A Nigerian accused of leading an African drug trafficking syndicate that recruits Asian couriers was arrested in Manila carrying half a kilogramme (1.1 pounds) of cocaine, authorities said Wednesday.

Samuel Egbo, 34, and his female South Korean companion were caught on Tuesday when they met a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency officer posing as a buyer in a McDonald’s restaurant in the Philippine capital, they said.

“He is one of the main facilitators in the Asia-Pacific region. He is the one who meets with the drug mules and arranges for their accommodations,” Jonathan Morales, an agent with the agency handling the case, told AFP.
Egbo was intending to sell the cocaine to the “buyer” for 2.5 million pesos ($59,000), Morales said.

According to Morales, Egbo is part of a group known as the West African Drug Syndicate — a collection of Nigerians based in Bangkok, Thailand, who operate in the Philippines, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

They recruit people to act as drug mules, paying them up to $3,000 each time they carry the contraband from one country to another, Morales said.

He said Egbo and his syndicate had recruited at least one of three Filipino drug mules who were executed in China in March after they were found guilty of trying to smuggle heroin into that country in 2008.

Morales said the executions increased scrutiny on the widespread recruitment of Filipinos as drug mules, leading the syndicate to try to recruit people from other countries.

He said he suspected Egbo’s 22-year-old South Korean companion, who he referred to as his “girlfriend”, was also a courier for the syndicate.
If found guilty of various drug-related charges, Egbo and his companion face life in jail, Morales said.