Pubdate: Wed, 15 Nov 2000
Source: Hamburger Abendblatt (Germany)
Copyright: 2000 Axel Springer Verlag
Contact:  Brieffach 2110, 20350 Hamburg
Fax: +49-40-347 261 10
Authors: Frank Mares and Kristina Johrde
Translator:  Stefan Scheytt
Note: PMK (phenyl acetone) is a precursor of methamphetamine, not of ecstasy. Ecstasy is made from a different precursor, piperonyl acetone, by the same procedure. Both phenyl acetone and piperonyl acetone are liquid and not available in powder form. -- Editor


2.3 Tons Of Powder Seized -- Company Imported Drug Precursor From China

Hamburg, gateway to the world -- this is also true for international drug
trade. For at least a year, the city was as hub for business in the
dangerous drug precursor "PMK", the powder from which ecstasy is
manufac-tured. Now, police and customs investigators shut down a Hamburg
company than controlled imports and exports of the illegal chemical. About
2.3 tons "PMK" (Phenyl-Methyl-Keton) have been seized. This would have been
sufficient to produce about 30 million ecstasy pills -- street value: more
than 500 million marks ($230 million US dollars).

Through an inside tip, customs agents uncovered a load of chemicals from
China at Frankfurt airport. Recipient of the shipment was a company in
Hamburg, a company, that, according to information of the police, was
founded in 1999 for the sole purpose of covering up trade in PMK. The
operators of the company, Dr. Hans-Willi K. (56) and Alexander B. (34) are
considered kingpins in the trade with drug precursor chemicals.

This past Sunday, they were arrested along with two chinese business
partners in Hamburg after returning from a pharmacological convention in
Italy. They allegedly bought the chemicals cheaply from China, to sell it
on to customers in other European countries such as Holland. There, huge
clandestine labs process the PMK into ecstasy pills. From there, they are
smuggled back to Germany and other countries, sold to distributors and then
sold at parties and in discotheques.

The amount of PMK seized in this bust would have been enough to produce
about 30 million pills, which would have secured the drug consumption in
the Hamburg club scene for several years.

On Monday, Dr. K. and Alexander B. went in front of a judge, who saw no
reasons to keep them in jail and let them go free. An investigator: "It is
heinous and unbelievable that they have been released. Through decisions
like these, trading in drugs is seen increasingly as a harmless activity.
No surprise that youth think that these pills are benign."

The development in the ecstasy scene is being watched with many worries by
the State Office of Criminal Investigations. The numbers are alarming:
Within the last two years, the number of users of the drug in the Greater
Hamburg metropolitan area surged from 15,000 to almost 40,000, with
inofficial estimated suggesting even higher numbers. Most of the consumers
are 18 to 25 years old and drop the pills on the weekend at parties and in
clubs to "feel good".

Just this past March the police dealt a major blow to the ecstasy scene
while seizing 100,000 pills.
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MAP posted-by: Eric Ernst