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Old photos of Nigerians arrested for drug trafficking in Cambodia making the rounds again as breaking news

IN SHORT: A previously debunked claim with old photos resurfaced in August 2023 as breaking news. The photos are at least four years old and the claim that death sentences have been handed down to three arrested Nigerians is not supported by available evidence.

Photos of three men, supposedly Nigerians arrested in Cambodia for drug trafficking and sentenced to death, circulated on Facebook in August 2023 as breaking news.

Many of the captions accompanying the photos urged Facebook users to share them, to ensure the information got to the parents of the suspects. 

“Breaking News: Three Nigerian Men who were caught with cocaine ‘ice’ in Cambodia have been charged to death sentence! .continue sharing until it gets to their various parents,” one of the Facebook posts reads.

Similar posts can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

But do these photos show breaking news of Nigerians arrested for drug offences, as the posts suggest?


Arrest took place in 2019

In January 2022, Africa Check checked a similar claim that circulated with the same photos in December 2021. 

Using Google reverse image search, we established that the photos were taken in July 2019. 

According to a machine translation of a 28 July 2019 news report written in Khmer, Cambodia’s official language, police conducted a search and crack-down on illegal drug trafficking in the country’s Dangkor district and arrested three Nigerians. 

According to the report, which included the photos in the Facebook posts, the suspects were arrested for allegedly trafficking over 20 kilograms of illegal drugs. But the report did not mention the type of drug. 

No death sentence for drug trafficking in Cambodia

Another Cambodian newspaper report published on 1 August 2019 said the three suspects were charged with drug possession and trafficking at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. 

They allegedly transported nearly 21 kilograms of methamphetamine from the country’s Stung Treng province to its capital, Phnom Penh.

The report said that, if convicted, the suspects faced a maximum of a life sentence. 

Cambodia’s Law on Control of Drugs makes no mention of the death sentence. It prescribes fines and imprisonment for various drug-related offences. We could find no evidence that Cambodia was listed among countries that apply the death penalty for drug offences. 

Apart from the fact that the photos are from 2019 and not “breaking news” in 2023, there is no evidence the three Nigerians were sentenced to death.

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