Hyderabad: The lure of huge money generated through sale of the psychotropic drug ephedrine illegally in the market is encouraging criminal gangs to enter into the trade. ‘All it takes is a pharmacist and a few helpers to prepare the banned substance. Recently, the directorate of revenue intelligence raided a pharmaceutical company at Bolarum and seized 179 kg of ephedrine worth Rs 5 crore.
Raids on laboratories on the outskirts of the city have unearthed a similar cache in the past too. The Cyberabad special operations teams and directorate of revenue intelligence were involved in those raids. “Huge money is involved and is luring the syndicates to manufacture the banned substance. We suspect that it is being smuggled to Chennai and other port cities before being sent in consignments to countries in the Far East,” said a DRI official.
Loss making laboratories in the industrial belt of Jeedimetla, Balanagar and Bolarum are turning into manufacturing centres for the drug. Ephedrine works by reducing swelling, constricting the blood vessels in the nasal passages and widening the lung’s airways, allowing a person to breathe more easily. “It is often abused by sports players and weightlifters. College students and truck drivers are known to abuse it because of its performance-enhancing effects. People who want to lose weight often use and abuse ephedrine, because of its association with weight loss.” an official said.
In the secondary state, another drug, methamphetamine, is manufactured from ephedrine. “Methamphetamine is classified as a highly psychotropic drug and is priced much higher than ephedrine. But so far very few cases of methamphetamine manufactured have been caught in the city as we suspect that the drug cannot be manufactured locally and only its raw form – ephedrine – is prepared here,” officials said. Officers of the special operations team in Cyberabad suspect that small quantities of ephedrine are being sold in the city. So far they have not caught anyone selling it but are keeping a watch.
Firms leasing out premises on cops radar:
Law enforcement agencies are now targeting companies that lease out their premises to illegal manufacturers of ephedrine and other psychotropic drugs. The companies obtain licences and permission to manufacture drugs or any other health care product that is permissible under the law. “They should not lease out their premises to others without knowing what they are engaged in. They are leasing out their premises for a few lakhs of rupees to people who are from other states,” said a police officer from Cyberabad.
The police are issuing notices to owners of the companies who are leasing or renting their premises, asking them to appear for questioning. “In some cases we found that the owners of the firms had shown negligence and leased out the unit for a few lakhs. It amounts to wilfully coordinating with the accused and attracts cases,” said a special operation team official. The owners of the companies have been made accused in three cases.
“To make up the losses, they rent out the premises without checking for what purpose it is being used for,” a police official said. According to the police, any experienced pharmacist can prepare ephedrine within a short span of time. The raw material is brought in from other cities and towns and after the drug is prepared it is carted to other cities before being dispatched to offshore destinations.