Four Mexican wanted drug lords were recently nabbed in a raid by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Asaba, Delta State.
The four Mexicans: Cervatos Madrid Jose Bruno, Rivas Ruiz Pastiano, Castillo Barraza Cristobal and Partida Gonzalez Pedro allegedly fled their home town in Mexico some months ago.
First to arrive Nigeria were Bruno and Pastiano.
Investigation showed that the two suspects had maintained close contact with their Nigerian sponsor, Chief Chidi Aruh, whom they met in Mexico about two years ago, the NDLEA said.
The leader of the Mexicans, Bruno, also known as “Cappuccino”, had met his Nigerian counterpart in a local coffee shop in Mexico and became instant friends because of their mutual interest in the illicit drug business, according to the anti-drug agency.
It was reliably learnt that Bruno was named “Cappuccino,” an Italian coffee drink that is traditionally prepared with espresso, hot milk and steam milk foam because of his proficiency in producing illicit drug.
On arrival, Bruno and Pastiano drew the blueprint of what it would take to set up a state of the art factory in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
The two Mexicans who are methamphetamine production experts, were first hired into the country as technical partners, but later became shareholders in the booming underworld drug business.
Both Bruno and Pastiano set up a laboratory with a capacity of producing between 3,000kg to 4,000kg of methamphetamine per production cycle.
One of the significant features of the laboratory, according to NDLEA boss, Lt. Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah (rtd), was that the production process is more technical and sophisticated and that it uses the synthesis method of production.
He noted that the super methamphetamine laboratory, which is similar to the ones found in Mexico, is the first to be discovered in the country.
It was also learnt that because of the size of the laboratory, coupled with the volume of work, both Bruno and Pastiano held a meeting with their Nigeria kingpin on the need for them to hire two more hands.
After much consultations and consideration, the suggestion yielded results and approved the request for two additional Mexican drug experts.
Following the approval, they recommended Castillo Barraza Cristobal and Partida Gonzalez Pedro. The duo are also said to be on the run from Mexico.
An NDLEA said that Cristobal and Pedro arrived the country in 2015 and immediately headed to Asaba to join their friends.
The source said detectives had been monitoring movement around the factory in Asaba, after heaps of chemical wastes were discovered behind a remotely built house.
The source said, most of the grass around the place where the chemical wastes were dumped were dead.
“In February 2016, detectives discretely took soil samples from the place when the occupants of the house were not in sight.
“They tested the soil sample in our lab in Lagos and it was discovered that the owners might be doing something quite different from what they wanted the world to know,” the source added.
Besides, the source disclosed that after the discovery, the NDLEA boss directed that operatives from the agency must keep close watch on the movement of both human and material in and out of the premises.
“After operatives assigned to the place had collated enough evidence. A day was set aside to break into the compound,” he said.
He disclosed that eight suspects were arrested from the house, including four Mexicans and four Nigerians.
It was also gathered that after the arrests there were calls from high places requesting for “negotiation” for them to be immediately released. There are investigations presently ongoing to ascertain the identities of those behind those calls.
During the raid, both Bruno and Pastiano unsuccessfully attempted to evade capture by fleeing through a network of interconnected doors.
The NDLEA boss described the Asaba operation as a technical undercover assignment leading to the dismantling of a drug trafficking organization. He said, “Our investigation revealed that a successful test production was done at the laboratory in February 2016.”
According to him, the laboratory was raided while the second production cycle was ongoing.
Items recovered at the laboratory include 1.5kg of finished methamphetamine and 750 litres of liquid methamphetamine. Other items found in the laboratory include industrial pressure pots, gas cylinders, gas burners, facial masks and numerous chemicals.
Also recovered in the operation are a Toyota Tundra, Mercedes Benz Jeep ML and a Toyota Corolla car.
He warned that unless drastic measures are taken against this trend, the rise of super laboratories will put Nigeria on the global spotlight in methamphetamine production.
“This is because the laboratory operates at an industrial scale with a high yield of 3,000kg to 4,000kgs of methamphetamine per production cycle. Nigeria methamphetamine is now competing with others in Asian and South African markets.
He said the threat posed by the laboratory was disturbing, because mass production will make the drug easily available thereby increasing the rate of abuse which has the tendency to increase the number of Nigerians in foreign prisons.
Methamphetamine laboratories pose a serious threat to humans because of the toxic nature of chemicals used which pollutes the environment.
Abdallah said for every one pound of methamphetamine produced, about three to six pounds of toxic waste is created and can contaminate the water table within a 500 metre radius. Even plants close to the dump were found to be dead, he said.
It was gathered that the Asaba laboratory contained highly poisonous solvents and gases. Some are pyrophoric in nature, capable of exploding, while others are carcinogenic, capable of causing cancer, in addition to others that are highly combustible and corrosive.
The NDLEA noted that adequate funds are required to detect laboratories, provide protective kits and also to decontaminate the production site. The NDLEA said the estimated cost of cleaning the Asaba laboratory is about N35 million.
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