Drug kingpin identified

2014-06-28 00:00

A DRAMATIC break in the county’s largest drug haul came when a team of detectives identified the international syndicate’s kingpin and other upper echelon players.

The ten-ton haul of narcotics seized on Tuesday has now been identified by police ­forensic investigators as methaqualone, the base ingredient of Mandrax, not heroin.

Well-placed police sources who could not be named as they are not authorised to speak to the press confirmed that the ­international cartel head and one of his top men have been profiled and identified.

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

“We have everything on these two guys. We know that the head of the organisation is a South African and we will be moving on him soon,” a source said.

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.

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 sources could not be drawn to reveal the identity of the suspects, believed to be lynchpins in the multi-country operation.

Weekend Witness can also reveal that staff at the Chinese Consulate had been aiding investigators in tracing their newest suspect, as well as assessing how the two Chinese nationals remanded in custody entered the country.

The two, along with a third, South African, suspect, appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday and were remanded in custody while police investigate the case.

The men, aged 57 and 58, are understood to be specialist chemists in charge of running the sophisticated drug ­laboratory.

Their identities are known to Weekend Witness, but cannot be published because of magistrate Wendy Robinson’s order.

She ordered that their identities remain hidden to safeguard the integrity of the investigation.

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.

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 indicates that it is the primary constituent of Mandrax.

The search of the scene and the examination of a raft of evidence continues unabated, with an army of forensic investigators working around the clock in shifts.

Clad in blue full body protective wear to guard them from noxious fumes and dangerous industrial agents found at the home, teams of forensic analysts moved about the grounds.

Police are also searching for the owner of the house, Junaid Rasool (24) who bought it in April for R3,8 million.

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.

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said the investigation was at an early stage.

“As far as we are concerned it is still very early in the investigation to talk about the kingpins. As with previous investigations we will do all the necessary ground work to build a solid case before we can arrest the kingpins. It is always better to investigate and then arrest as opposed to doing it the other way around,” he said.

• jeff.wicks@witness.co.za


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