Huge Ice bust sets mainland records

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 December, 2009, 12:00am

Police in Sichuan busted a huge drug-manufacturing and trafficking ring, seizing 104 tonnes of restricted chemical materials that could be used to produce nearly 11 tonnes of the designer drug Ice.

The amount of ephedrine recovered, the number of people arrested and the geographic coverage of the Ice-production network were the largest in the history of the fight against synthetic drugs on the mainland, the report quoted police as saying.

China News Service said yesterday the case involved 64 manufacturers in 21 provinces that had sold 22,220 containers of a compound containing ephedrine to drug makers. It said about 10.9 tonnes of Ice, with an estimated market value of 2.17 billion yuan (HK$2.46 billion), or 13.6 tonnes of ephedrine could be extracted from the compound.

The report did not say whether all 64 drug manufacturers were licensed enterprises, but according to drug rules issued by the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), only pharmaceutical factories with special licences are allowed to make and sell compound drugs containing ephedrine, since the chemical is regulated by law.

This year, municipal drug authorities in Yibin , Sichuan, contacted police after discovering a batch of compounds containing ephedrine was missing, suspecting the materials could be used illicitly, CNS reported. Yibin police formed a special team comprising more than 80 officers on April 8, it said.

After investigations in Jilin , Anhui , Hubei , other provinces and the Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia regions, police detained 85 suspects, of whom 45 were formally arrested and charged with drug-making and other illegal operations, CNS said.

It said police had destroyed eight factories processing Ice and smashed five criminal gangs during the investigations in 21 provinces, which lasted more than six months.

Yibin police seized up to 44 tonnes of compound drugs containing ephedrine with a market value of 52.8 million yuan, 415kg of ephedrine and 955 grams of processed Ice, the state news agency said.

Officers also seized more than 87.8 million yuan in stolen and illicit money, as well as three guns, 10 bullets and titles to 10 properties and 21 cars, it said.

Also in Sichuan, police in Deyang smashed an underground workshop manufacturing Ice that had been set up as a factory processing traditional medicine, arresting nine suspects and confiscating more than a tonne of semi-finished Ice and 20 tonnes of drug-making materials, the West China City Daily, based in Chengdu , reported yesterday.

Ephedrine is not listed as a 'precursor' chemical - an ingredient used to make a chemical product like Ice - and is not banned on the mainland because of its common use in medication for flu, coughs, asthma and other ailments.

The food and drug administration issued a notice to restrict ephedrine-related compound drugs in the market, and all ephedrine-based medicine must be tracked after it leaves the factory, with retail sales restricted to packages of no more than five units at a time.