Facebook-iconInternational drug syndicates are using social networking site Facebook to recruit young Malaysian women as ‘drug mules’, the deputy foreign minister said.

The government has previously sounded the alarm over the number of Malaysian women becoming caught up in drug trafficking, many of them drawn into the trade by smooth-talking conmen.

Deputy Foreign Minister Richard Riot said that men in the syndicates, many from Nigeria and South Africa, ‘picked up’ their unsuspecting victims on Facebook, promising them rewards to carry packages for them.

‘It has been happening for quite some time, these girls are being lured by these men on Facebook, these men chat with them, become friends, gain the girls’ trust then use them as drug mules to smuggle narcotics,’ he told AFP.

‘They even offer to pay for holidays to Japan, China and South America, asking the girls to carry packages, bags or gifts that contain drugs,’ he added.

‘We are advising these Internet savvy university-aged girls to think before accepting such holidays and gifts as such things always come with strings attached.’

Riot said that 785 out of 1,560 Malaysians arrested overseas since 1991 were drug mules, including 149 women.

Seventy of those on drug trafficking charges are facing death sentences, he said, but was unable to say how many were recruited on Facebook.

Concerned over the large number of young women caught up in trafficking, the government in 2008 considered forcing those travelling abroad on their own to have written approval from their parents or employers.

The idea was shot down following criticism by women’s groups.

Malaysians have embraced social networking sites enthusiastically.

According to a study by global research firm TNS released last month, they are the most sociable people on the Internet with an average of 233 friends in their network, compared to 68 in China and just 29 in Japan.

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