Drug lab’s global links

2014-07-01 00:00

TWO Chinese nationals arrested for the record R3 billion Kloof drug seizure last week made frequent trips to Asia as well as other African countries.

The information comes as detectives from across the country probe any links to the international drug cartel which had been operating out of one of Durban’s premier suburbs.

A break in the investigation came last week when a crack team of detectives identified the international syndicate’s kingpin and other key players.

The 10-ton haul of narcotics seized on Tuesday has now been identified by police forensic investigators as methaqualone, the base ingredient of Mandrax.

According to a well-placed police source, who could not be named as he is not authorised to speak to the press, the two men, understood to be chemists in the drug ring, made frequent international trips.

“What we know is that the two Chinese suspects made repeated trips to and from China and crossed the borders into other African states,” he said.

The source added that an examination of records held by border control agencies had been one of the first stops for detectives.

“One of the aims of the team was to find out how these guys had come into the country and also how they had managed to get all this sophisticated equipment and dangerous chemicals through our ports,” he added.

It is understood that law enforcement agencies across the globe were assisting South African investigators with their probe.

The source said that the suspects, who remain in custody ahead of their formal bail application next week, had made several entries into other African countries. He said that this served to give an impression of the potential scale of the drug operation and the size of the network.

Using swathes of evidence gathered at the scene and information from the questioning of three gang underlings who were arrested in the raid, detectives compiled extensive suspect profiles.

The principal player is understood to be a South African whose arrest is imminent.

It is further understood that the other high-level syndicate boss has skipped the country and has sought refuge from law enforcement agencies in China.

The cartel’s epicentre, a hi-tech lab in the leafy suburb of Kloof, Durban, is being carefully dismantled by an army of forensic detectives and chemical disposal experts flown in from across the country.

The record value of the sting remains set at R3 billion and may rise when detectives weigh the entire sum of raw product at a well-protected laboratory.

Police initially reported that the cache of drugs was heroin, but preliminary testing on several samples indicated that it is the primary constituent of Mandrax.

Police are also searching for the owner of the house, Junaid Rasool (24) who bought it in April for R3,8 million. He is expected to be questioned in relation to the goings-on at the plush pad.

The expansive property, set in the thicket of gum trees, appears to have been carefully chosen by the international syndicate.

The drug ring had used water sourced from a borehole and generators to provide electricity to avoid a spike in usage on the city’s grid that would have aroused suspicion.

The clean-up operation at the house is expected to continue for most of the week.

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