Hunt on for R3bn drug kingpins

2014-06-26 08:24
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega at the scene of a R3bn drug bust in KwaZulu-Natal. (Matthew Middleton, The Witness)

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega at the scene of a R3bn drug bust in KwaZulu-Natal. (Matthew Middleton, The Witness)

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Jeff Wicks, The Witness

Durban - The search is on for the kingpins of an international drug ring, who must now be counting the cost of the country’s most prolific bust of nearly 10 tons of pure heroin worth over R3bn.

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 flown in from across the country.

Using a raft of evidence gathered from the drug den, police from specialised units are working around the clock to trace the cartel bosses.

The raid saw police intelligence and tactical officers storming a lavish Everton Road mansion on Tuesday night.

Arrests

The three men arrested inside the lab, two of whom are Chinese nationals, are understood to be underlings in the criminal structure.

The haul, and other multi-million rand drug seizures in Durban in less than six months, casts a spotlight on the province’s borders and ports, conduits of the illicit trade.

Now a crack team of detectives are understood to have turned their attention to the source of the chemicals and where the street drug had been bound for.

Speaking after a guided tour of the compound, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said that the hunt for the syndicate’s bosses had begun.

“I can say that investigators are using evidence that was found during the raid, like the labels on the chemicals, to establish where they came from.

“In their examination of this, they will ascertain how these machines and chemicals were brought into the country, we will be keeping a very close watch on our ports of entry and this is an area of priority investigation for the entire police force,” Phiyega said.

Syndicates

The commissioner said that the raid was in-line with a national instruction to crack down on the country’s top drug trafficking syndicates.

“I recently stated that I have issued an instruction that Crime Intelligence identify the top 15 syndicates in the country and work together with the detectives and the hawks to go after these syndicates operating in serious crime such as drugs, cash in transit, human trafficking, money laundering, arms and ammunition.

“It is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved when we are focused and work together as a team. We are hard at work to ensure that we use our resources effectively to relentlessly pursue criminals.

“These drugs that we uncovered destroy the lives of our people who use them, especially the youth. They also are a huge contributor to other related crimes such as murder and robberies,” she said.

The interior of the upmarket home had been stripped bare, and bedrooms and a garage used to store tons of uncut heroin.

In the home’s garage, an industrial scale still bore evidence of use, as white powder scattered around it had been discarded when bags were loaded.

Hi-tech lab

The hi-tech lab, complete with industrial mixers and an array of chemistry equipment, had been shut away in what was once a squash court on the sprawling property.

The international syndicate is understood to have produced tons of the uncut narcotics for six months before the lab was discovered.

The drug payloads, so pure that if used without cutting agents would result in death, was then shipped abroad.

The property had been completely retrofitted to avoid detection, with the laboratory supplied with water from a bore-hole and electricity from a generator so as not to raise suspicion by a spike in usage.

Set among large trees to disperse noise and chemical odours and far away from the closest neighbours, the clandestine lab had been perfectly placed.

“As we had promised, we are working tirelessly to bring these criminals to book. We will continue to expose those who live in the lap of luxury and profit from the misery of ordinary citizens on the ground. Our detectives will continue with this investigation until everyone behind this find is behind bars,” she said.

She added that international police agencies would aid investigating the background of two Chinese nationals who were arrested inside the laboratory and who are understood to be the chemists in the manufacturing plant.

The three will appear in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

- For more information, visit the Witness micro site.

Read more on:    durban  |  narcotics  |  crime
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