Police hunt drug makers after huge crystal meth raid in Boshe village

Tens of thousands of villagers reportedly involved indrug trade, leaving land ravaged

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 5:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 6:25am

Police continued to search houses for production facilities and track down fugitives yesterday following a raid which seized a record three tonnes of crystal meth from a Guangdong village.

One resident, who declined to be named, told the South China Morning Post raw materials and half-finished products remained inside many houses in Boshe.

"It is everywhere. The police officers are short of hands to clean it all up." she said.

Police raided 77 workshops on December 29 and seized three tonnes of crystal meth and 23 tonnes of raw material. A total of 182 people, including ring leader Cai Dongjia, were arrested.

Guo Shaobo, deputy police chief of Guangdong, told the Guangzhou Daily that the police would launch more operations to track down those who escaped the massive raid that mobilised 3,000 police officers, helicopters and speedboats to stop drug makers from escaping the coastal village via the sea.

"The operation was only the first step, we should have follow-up operations as the second and third step," Lan Weihong, an official with the Narcotics Department of the Ministry of Public Security, told CCTV.

A total of 400 police will launch a one-year operation in Boshe and nearby villages to make sure crystal meth production will not resume, the Guangzhou Daily said yesterday.

However, villagers' lives will never be the same as Boshe's soil and water have been ruined after three years of frantic production of crystal meth, which made up a third of the country's production.

"No villager plants crops on the farmland. Those people [drug makers] discharged toxic water directly into farmland and ponds and nothing could grow on the land in the past couple years," 78-year-old Cai Zutian, a Boshe villager, said.

A Sichuan rubbish collector said even scavenging was risky, adding: "They just burned the used Herba Ephedrae [a herb] and dumped the leftovers on the wasteland near the sea … I used to pick up discarded bottles there and never dare to do so now."

A pungent stench filled some of the empty houses, ruins and backyards, which had been workshops powered by diesel generators running day and night to boil and extract Herba Ephedrae for methamphetamine.

"The villagers were peaceful and made a living of farming until about three or four years ago when a household of five or six family members introduced and started the drug production in their house," Cai Zutian said.

He said it cost around two million yuan (HK$2.54 million) to start a crystal meth production line. Usually the owner would invite close relatives to join and once they saved a similar sum themselves, they would create their own production facilities.

During peak production last year, up to 40 per cent of the village's 140,000 people were involved, he said. Those not directly involved in production could take part in trafficking.

"Truck after truck would take Herba Ephedrae to the village," Cai Zutian said. But he said he was too old, and not close enough to the Cai's clan to join the trade.

Due to a leap in supply, the price of crystal meth in Lufeng dropped from about 250,000 yuan per kg to as low as 20,000 yuan over the past two years, the Guangzhou Daily said.

CCTV said Cai Dongjia, 51, left Boshe to do business in Shenzhen over a decade ago. He returned and became party boss and started the crystal meth production.

CCTV said the police only managed to arrest Cai, who always received tip-offs before raids, on December 29 when he was on his way to Huizhou city to bribe his cousin, Cai Lianghuo, out from police detention.

Lan told CCTV that there was no shooting during the operation, although three police were hurt. In the past, previous police operations were met by defiant villagers armed with replica AK-47s and grenades.

Cai Shuibao, an official from Lufeng city's human resources and social security bureau, was appointed as village party chief to set up a new party committee with a mandate to restore law and order and build infrastructure, the Southern Metropolis Daily said.