Argentine police discover 4 tons of ephedrine

By Dialogo
August 27, 2009

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) 8/24/2009 — Federal police on Monday uncovered four tons (4,200 kilograms) of ephedrine in oil drums and boxes to be sent to Mexico and the United States. The lead investigator called it the largest illegal shipment of the methamphetamine precursor ever seized in Argentina, worth millions. The ephedrine, was imported from India and China, and discovered with the help of U.S. Drug Enforcement and Interpol agents who have advised police investigating a group of Argentines and Mexican traffickers, Commissioner Miguel Castro told The Associated Press. Castro, superintendent of investigations for the federal police, said the boxes were hidden in a furniture warehouse and the drums were found in another warehouse where one employee was arrested. The chemical is worth $4,000 to $6,000 a kilogram on the street in Argentina, but the traffickers planned to ship it to Mexico, where it sells for between $10,000 and $15,000 a kilogram to gangs that make methamphetamine for U.S. consumers, Castro said. Investigators suspect the chemical remained hidden since last year following the execution-style killings of three Argentines, allegedly by Mexican hit men, in August 2008. Two of the victims owned pharmacies that imported large quantities of the chemical for use in cold medicines, but allegedly intended to sell it instead to gangs from Mexico, which banned the substance in 2007. Forced to acknowledge how Argentina's wide-open ephedrine market was attracting Mexican cartels, the government ordered drugmakers at the end of 2008 to obtain prior approval before importing the chemical. Monday's discovery is the second this month. Another four tons of properly declared ephedrine was discovered abandoned in a customs service depository in the port of Buenos Aires. Castro said the two discoveries are unrelated, and that police are still trying to determine if that ephedrine is legal. All eight tons will remain under a judge's supervision while cases are pending, and then be destroyed, Castro said.