CHIANGRAI TIMES – Thai Department of Special Investigation (DSI) are extending their inquiry in to the diversion of chilled tablets for the production of the illegal stimulant methamphetamine abroad after finding that sizable quantities of the pills may have been illegally imported from China and South Korea.
Department of Special Inquiry Director-General Tharit Phengdit said Thursday that his agency found documents about a Thai company’s deal to buy ten billion pseudoephedrine-based chilled pills from a Chinese firm. They said it also found facts of illegal purchases and shipments of such drugs from South Korea.
Thailand is a major market and transit point for methamphetamine. Tharit said the smuggled medicine was sent to drug dealers along the Thailand-Myanmar border. Myanmar is a major producer of the forbidden drug.
Tharit said Thai officials will meet with staff from the Chinese and South Korean embassies in Bangkok before investigators travel abroad.
The DSI has been inquiring in to hospitals, clinics and pharmacies around Thailand that made suspiciously giant orders of pills containing pseudoephedrine, which is often used in the production of methamphetamine.
The agency began its inquiry after the discovery in February of discarded packaging for one.2 million chilled tablets in northern Thailand.
Since then, investigators have found that over 11 million tablets went missing from at least 12 hospitals nationwide. Hospital directors and pharmacists were called in to give testimony and some were removed from their posts. – Anna Wong
Shipping firms to be charged for falsely declaring shipment in custom
Investigators checking the premises of an electronics parts importing company found an order to purchase 10 billion tablets from China. The firm is believed to have been involved in making false customs declarations to smuggle 40 tonnes of pseudoephedrine drugs from South Korea previously.
Meanwhile, apart from labelling all “callcentre scams” as special cases yesterday, the Special Case Committee also agreed to have the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) take up and investigate all pseudoephedrinesmuggling cases.
DSI chief Tarit Pengdith will lead the investigation to be conducted jointly by the DSI, public prosecutors, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other related agencies.
Tarit said that besides the contract to purchase 40tonnes of the drug reportedly from a South Korean firm by UTAC Thai, the officials also found another purchase order for 10 billion tablets from China. He said the contract was two years old and showed that the first lot of 2 million tablets had been delivered on July 31, 2009. The DSI chief went on to say that the tablets ordered from both South Korea and China were of the COLCOLCO brand.
The DSI has also found images of those who moved the medicines out of the cargo building, he said, adding that initially investigators would hold the shipping company responsible because in the import documents, the shipment was falsely declared as antibiotics and electronic parts. However, the shipment was not falsely declared in South Korea because there the drug is not illegal.
Tarit added that UTAC Thai has been insisting that its name is being used falsely and that it has nothing to do with the crime. The DSI chief said that investigators needed to visit South Korea to inquire about the purchase contract and the import procedure.
A DSI source said that both Thai and South Korean FDA officers had detected false customs declarations made in Suvarnabhumi Airport from February 23, 2010 to May 8, 2010 of shipments ordered by UTAC Thai. The shipping firms involved are IndoChina Inter Group, Two Supply, Oversea Product and Chanthawat Enterprise.
Meanwhile, in Lamphun’s Muang district, police yesterday searched for more documents at Sirivej Hospital after finding that this 10bed facility had ordered more than a million tablets of pure and mixed pseudoephedrine tablets last year but did not report the purchases to the provincial health office.
Sirivej Hospital director Dr Chote Nisung yesterday insisted that the hospital staff had nothing to do with the forged purchase orders for the pills and clarified that the hospital had ordered 350,000 pseudoephedrine tablets last January and February from the firms Asean Pharmaceutical and Milano Factory. He added that this shipment was meant to cover the entire year and the hospital did not order any more after that. In March, the hospital received 100,000 tablets from Milano Factory and 150,000 from Asean Pharmaceutical, but since these drugs were reportedly not ordered, the hospital told the two companies to pick them up, which they did, he said.
Chote added that the FDA had found that the hospital had ordered some 900,000 tablets from the same two companies on nine occasions from May to September, even though no such orders had been made. He went on to say that since the hospital had not ordered the pills and had not received them, they did not report it to the provincial health office. Insisting that the hospital staff had nothing to do with the crime, he added that a gang of drugtraffickers may have used the hospital’s name to order the drug and salespeople from pharmaceutical companies might be at fault. He explained that this was the reason why the hospital had filed a police complaint against the two firms.
Provincial Police Region 5 deputy chief Pol MajGeneral Chamnan Ruadraew said his investigation team had made good progress in its probe into the Central Memorial Hospital in Chiang Mai and Sirivej Hospital in Lamphun, and that it would soon seek an arrest warrant for at least one more suspect.