News: Police seize 400kg of ephedrine

Stuart

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http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,16401130-28097,00.html



FOUR men have been arrested and drugs with a street value of $72 million seized in a series of raids by Australian Federal Police and Customs in Sydney's south-west.

The haul, of about 400kg of ephedrine, was described by customs officials as one of the biggest involving the drug, which is used to make speed.
The compressed powder, which had been used to make ceramic statues and found in a shipping container, was discovered by customs in a shipment that arrived from Vietnam on August 17.

Customs officers found that 800 of the 864 statues were made from the powder in a novel method of concealment.

Australian Federal Police arrested four men yesterday during raids at a Padstow warehouse, where the drugs were being stored, and two houses in south-western Sydney.

The four men, aged between 29 and 36, were charged with conspiracy to import a prohibited import and supply of a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.

Kowk Do, Kanh Lam, Minh Phan and Paul Nguyen faced Parramatta Bail Court today and were refused bail to appear in Central Local Court on Monday.

Police allege the ephedrine was intended to make methamphetamine, commonly known as speed, and had the potential to make 1,440,000 tablets with a potential street value of up to $72 million.

During a news conference before the court appearance, Australian Customs Service regional director David Collins said it was thought the haul was one of the largest with this type of drug.

"We think it's close to the biggest, if not the biggest," he told reporters.

He said it was an unusual way to conceal drugs and criminals were less likely to use this method in the future.

"It certainly is a very unusual form of concealment to actually be the product," Mr Collins told reporters.

"Most concealments are in another product but this is actually part of the product."

More arrests were expected.
 

Splatt

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Hmm Ephedrine.

Doesn't that mean they were intending to make amphetamine and not methylamphetamine?
 

Stuart

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my guess is they got caught from a tip off, or surveillance
 

charlesbronson

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Doesn't that mean they were intending to make amphetamine and not methylamphetamine?
nah both pseudoephedrine and ephedrine are methamphetamine precursors.

in short, they have the same atomic connectivity but different stereochemistry; i.e. they have slight differences in the 3D geometry of the molecule (which accounts for the difference in the action of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in the body).

but both can have their OH group reduced to form methamphetamine.

out of the four possible 3D configurations of ephedrine/pseudoephedrine, two of them are optimal for use as meth precursors:
Although all ephedrine enantiomers and diastereomers may be converted to methamphetamine, stereochemistry about the beta carbon to the benzene ring shows that only (-)ephedrine and (+)pseudoephedrine yield d-methamphetamine [1,3,4]. The stereospecificity is one of the appealing features of this synthesis, since d-methamphetamine is physiologically more active than l-methamphetamine.

Source
 

phase_dancer

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Thanks for that charlesbronson. If someone wanted to use the other diastereomer and enantiomer (+ ephedrine, - pseudo) they would have to first convert the compounds to a planar molecule such as a ketone, which would not make this starting material anywhere near as desirable as the other isomers are for making meth. Even going via a ketone and reaminating, the product would only be 50% the d isomer.

Still, with the tight regulations applying to pseudo, who knows what some producers might be forced to do, as meth and amphetamine can be made from many starting materials. Once upon a time, several years ago on the news group 'alt.drugs.chemistry', there was a speed synthesis competition. The wide range of novel and varied routes that were suggested were truly amazing.

If someone was intending to make amphetamine from a similar precursor they would go for phenylpropanolamine. This is like ephedrine or pseudo without the N-methyl group. Procedure of reduction is therefore analogous to producing meth
 

charlesbronson

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If someone wanted to use the other diastereomer and enantiomer (+ ephedrine, - pseudo) they would have to first convert the compounds to a planar molecule such as a ketone
very interesting..... so in the case of such a large import, i'd assume the recipients would know that (-)ephedrine is what they are after, and wouldn't waste effort trying to import 400kg of +eph unless it was their only source. but are there any 'clandestine' ways of determining enantiomeric composition of the ephedrine they have prior to synthesis (or, more importantly, prior to purchase)? home-made CSP-HPLC!

and also, do OTC medicinal products contain single-enantiomer or racemic pseudoephedrine?

presumably the (+)ephedrine and (-)pseudo are less pharmacologically efficacious and that is why they are rarely seen, otherwise many home-cooks could easily be foiled by the (-)pseudo precursor.

many thanks for sharing the knowledge.
 

Stuart

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in English, can someone please clarify this import was for 'more likely than not' going to be used to make amphetamines, not MDMA or ICE? *confused*
 

phase_dancer

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but are there any 'clandestine' ways of determining enantiomeric composition of the ephedrine they have prior to synthesis (or, more importantly, prior to purchase)?
A polarimeter is a fairly inexpensive piece of equipment and a second hand one, if it works ok, would do the trick

polarimeter animation

ephedrine was going to be used to methamphetamine, via reduction of the ephedrine. The procedure that uses pseudo would work the same way
 

katmeow

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Pleonastic said:
That's a fairly innovative smuggling method! Although I guess since they got caught it wasn't quite innovative enough... ;)

Reminiscent of the cocaine toys in the movie Traffic.
 

chugs

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in my stoned dsylexic state i thought the headline said

"News: Police seize 400kg elephant"

i sat there wondering why it was being posted in BL
 
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katmeow

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^^^ It's those elephants that Taronga Zoo wants to bring in... they'll be drug smuggling in their bellies ;)
 

Hater

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so whats up with the 64 statues that police confiscated but havnt explained what they are made of when 800 of their friends were discovered to be made of ephedrine
 

skiforlife

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^^ They were probably made out of a non-suspect non-drug material and organized in a manner in which they would be the first "statue" to be inspected.
 

chugs

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just imagine doing a cavity search on a elephant (let alone a small one @ 400kg)

i think i've stumbled across the best way of importing drugs - up the as so of a elephant. No custom agent would dare to think his arm into it!
 

phase_dancer

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As someone who feels he has some idea of what equipment must be used by customs, I can only say that these people must be a few pennies short of a threepence if they attempt this type of smuggling without knowing how the items will be inspected. Ionising / X-ray density tests would pick the difference between the real and fake statues like that. I guess they must weigh the odds, and apply a bit of hope and prayer that their shipments won't be scanned. That can only change more towards the scanning of everything, particularly as the costs of present technology are constantly decreasing.

However, figures and comments (below) published in the recently released Australian Party Drug Trends 2003/2004 tend to indicate there are still significant means & methods currently being exploited by importers. Despite that, I'd have to say, IMO the days of pseudo/ ephedrine as a precursor chemical being successfully smuggled into Aus in large shipments are numbered.

However, there are other compounds containing the ephedrine skeleton, and which could possibly be (at this stage anyway) slipped through. These compounds would require some 'real' chemistry this end, so perhaps the economics wouldn't be there - but then again, there will probably always be profit in it. While the present user market continues to exist and is probably still growing, it's hard to see a time when the idea will be abandoned completely.. (from the Aus Party Drugs Trends 2003/2004, total amphetamine type stimulant arrests - consumer & provider - have rose steadily since 2001/02. 2003/04 total was 9593 arrests, against 8083 in 1999/00)

Looking at the stats of the Australian Party Drug Trends 2004, it is apparent there were less border seizures for both crystalline meth, as well as for amphetamine type stimulants in 2003/04. But, this may be explained in the following text (transcribed word for word) which also accompanies the presented data.

....Also seen was a drop in the number of number or seizures from 17 in 2002/2003 to 12 in 2003/2004. Once again this drop may be due to a shift in the importation strategies and methods of concealment.


5.5 Methamphetamine related harms

5.5.1


It should be noted that changes in patterns of arrest can reflect changes in the activity of police, as well as of users or suppliers of illicit drugs.....

Without reproducing the graphs (no online version available yet AFAIK) here are the corresponding figures:

From the bar and line graph:

Figure 19: Total weight and number of amphetamine type stimulant* seizures at the border by Australian Customs Services, financial years 1995/96 (2000/01-2003/04 data presented; p_d)

Year_______2000/2001_____2001/2002_____2002/2003_____2003/2004

Weight (kg)_____51___________428__________239___________6
No. of seizures___85__________203__________215________140

Seems there is some type of pattern in common with other drug importer strategies. Sending lots of smaller shipments, at present, must prove much more viable.
 

phase_dancer

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Thanks ayjay. mmm...that's really odd as I couldn't seem to link to that page earlier on...? Seems OK now though....
 
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