A Nigerian student has died during a drug raid in Malaysia and four others were arrested, police said Thursday, adding that West Africans seem to be replacing Iranians in the illicit trade.
Police seized several kilogrammes of heroin and methamphetamine worth a total of 600,000 ringgit ($200,000) in a raid on a flat in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday, said Othman Harun, deputy director of the Federal Narcotics Department.
They also arrested four Nigerians in their 20s, while a fifth man tried to run away and when caught collapsed with breathing difficulties and died.
Othman said police were still awaiting a report on the cause of death but believe the Nigerian could have swallowed heroin capsules to smuggle them abroad.
The grade-four heroin that was seized from the apartment is not commonly used in Malaysia but destined for such countries as Australia, Othman said.
Othman said police had arrested 19 Nigerians from January to April, mainly in Kuala Lumpur and at the international airport.
"This number is considered very high," he told AFP. "In the last few weeks, there is an increase in Western Africans, especially Nigerians, bringing in methamphetamine."
Three more Nigerians have been arrested in separate cases since Friday at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport when methamphetamine was found hidden in their bags.
Previously others had allegedly hidden drugs in cassavas and sweet potatoes, Othman said.
All suspects held in custody face hanging if convicted of drug trafficking, which carries a mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.
Othman said police believed the Nigerians were filling a vacuum left after the arrest of several Iranian alleged drug syndicate masterminds.
"When there is a vacuum, West Africans step in on this activity," he said.
He said that police had arrested 44 Iranians for drug trafficking in the first four months of the year, and several more in May.