Up in smoke went 33 tonnes of safrole-rich oil - enough to have made 245 million tablets - in the operation conducted at Pursat in western Cambodia
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 19 Jun 2008 16:44:43 -0700 (PDT)
Friday June 20, 08:42 AM
AFP wipes out stockpile of ecstasy oils
More than 1,000 barrels of an oil that could have made billions of
dollars worth of ecstasy tablets have been destroyed in a joint
operation by Australian Federal Police and Cambodian authorities.
Up in smoke went 33 tonnes of safrole-rich oil - enough to have made
245 million tablets - in the operation conducted at Pursat in western
Cambodia this week.
Police said the oil, produced from local trees, was contained in 1,278
barrels and could have produced ecstasy tablets with an Australian
street value of $7.6 billion.
The AFP says a significant blow has been dealt to the trade of illicit
drugs in the region and the operation is an excellent example of
federal police working with international policing partners.
"I commend the coordinated effort by Cambodian authorities to seize
the oil, break the production chain and reduce the dependency on
income from illegal drug manufacture," AFP national manager border
international Tim Morris said in a statement.
"This oil is not only a precursor in ecstasy production, it also has
considerable social and ecological ramifications for Cambodia's people
Mr Morris said the oil was known to be carcinogenic and mutagenic
(capable of inducing genetic mutation) and the people working in the
clandestine laboratories where the drugs are manufactured were among
Cambodia's poorest farmers.
Safrole-rich oil is derived from the roots of two varieties of the
Sassafras tree, classified as a rare species which only grows in
Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains.
To distil this oil from the roots, the entire tree is cut down with
the timber used to fire the clandestine laboratory furnaces.
Much of the oil ends up in Vietnam, China and Thailand, where it is
not illegal, for refinement.
The AFP team of four technicians and two forensic chemists from the
Specialist Response Amphetamine Type Stimulants (SRATS) team began
burning the oil stockpile this week, 170km west of the capital Phnom
To conduct the operation, the AFP members transported specialist
equipment from Australia including chemical suits, breathing
apparatus, decontamination showers, air compressors, generators and
gas monitoring and analysis equipment.
The operation took several days and was conducted in the early morning
and evening because of sweltering conditions.
Cambodian authorities had been working since 2002 to stem the
distillation of safrole-rich oil, the AFP said.
They have detected and dismantled more than 50 clandestine
laboratories capable of producing up to 60 litres a day.
The single-largest seizure was made in April this year during a three-
week operation by the Cambodian National Police, military police,
Cambodian prosecutors, forestry and environment officials in an
uninhabited area of the western region.
Cambodia's National Authority for Combating Drugs then approached the
AFP to assist with the safe disposal of the oil stockpile.
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