Tiny place flooding us with meth

Written By komlim puldel on Selasa, 10 Maret 2015 | 20.01

A small village in the South of China is responsible for a huge amount of Australia and the world's meth production. Source: Flickr

AUSTRALIA is awash with methamphetamine — and it's likely coming from a relatively small district in the south of China.

The area responsible is the Lufeng District and sits on the southern Chinese border, just 200km east of Hong Kong.

The heart of the area is Lufeng's industrial city of 1.7 million people but aside from the Dinosaur Valley Museum, a slew of lively restaurants and the temperate weather, there is not much to attract tourists.

Lufeng District, highlighted in pink. Source: Supplied

Which is probably a good thing because hidden beyond the smoke and bustle of the city, are some of China's most prolific drug manufacturers.

Certain villages in the area have become so notorious for illegal activity that residents reportedly stand guard with AK-47s and handmade grenades, in order to protect their illegal business.

The reputation of the Lufeng is such that people on social media have taken to calling it "the city of ice."

Last month police conducted what was the latest drug-related raid in the area, seizing 2.4 tonnes of methamphetamine from a village known locally as "the fortress."

A year ago, raids in the same area proved equally successful with a three tonne seizure of the drug by Chinese authorities.

Jinjiang Road, Jieshi Town, the centre of the small industrial Lufeng City. Source: Flickr

Despite increased police action, the problem is unlikely to be eradicated any time soon.

The difficulty faced by the authorities lies in the huge sums of money to be made in exporting the substance out of Lufeng District, to the rest of the world.

Those controlling the trade in the area only need a single shipment to be a success to turn a giant profit.

Jeremy Douglas is the regional representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and told news.com.au the production of methamphetamine has overtaken other drugs, such as heroin.

"The money generated is significant, the drug traffickers are incredibly wealthy. They are able to corrupt and they do use corruption as a part of their business model. They just build it into the cost," he said.

In October 2013, Guangdong police released a list of 109 wanted drug traders along with their residential addresses, all of them were in Lufeng. Source: Supplied

China has a huge pharmaceutical industry which is allowing the illicit drug trade to flourish. The precursors required to make the stimulant are commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry and according to Mr. Douglas, they are being diverted from their intended purpose to those operating illegal labs.

"To operate a lab like this, you need a lot of chemicals, which are legitimate, regulated chemicals from the pharmaceutical industry," Mr. Douglas told the South China Morning Post.

Despite the fact that authorities incinerated 400 tonnes of crystal meth precursors seized in the area just five months ago, plenty more is clearly getting through to the labs.

The Chinese Communist Party has been increasingly proactive in cracking down on widespread corruption, so it's no surprise that it lies at the heart of the burgeoning meth trade.

A journalist who covers the area for an English language newspaper, but who wished not to be named, told news.com.au that, "generally speaking, it [Lufeng] is considered one of the more corrupt Chinese provinces."

Another challenge faced by law enforcement is the ease in which manufactures can move the site of production. They will simply shift their activities to take advantage of laws, corrupt officials or other opportunities.

"You can disguise these things as paint factories or anything," said Mr. Douglas.

The black arrow shows the location of Lufeng, in the Guangdong province of southern China. Source: Supplied

Lufeng district is believed to be responsible for one-third of all crystal meth production in China over the past three years, and given its location, is the likely source of a majority of methamphetamine coming into Australia.

On February 18, 2015 two Australian men were charged after 16 kilograms of meth amphetamine was found in a shipment of treadmills coming from China.

And one week later two men from Malaysia and Hong Kong were charged with importing $65 million worth of the drug into Sydney in boxes marked as "kids's toys."

Mr. Douglas said these types of trafficking attempts were "highly likely" to have come from Lufeng Province. "Even if the seizure originated from another city, it may also be from there as it might have gone through different networks," he told news.com.au.

Seizure of 16kg of crystal meth hidden inside treadmills from China was seized in Sydney last month. Source: Supplied

A report last month in the Epoch Times contended that in one bust, up to 20 per cent of the Lufeng village were complicit in the operations of the meth trade.

While that number remains unsubstantiated, Mr. Douglas spoke of one bust in Lufeng where a majority of the village likely knew of the lab.

But the illegal activities that have become so common in Lufeng district represent a growing trend in the region.

Since 2006 there has been a fivefold increase in the number of amphetamine type stimulant (ATS) drug busts in East and South East Asia.

Last week, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) released their annual report and called the expansion of illicit amphetamine-type stimulants "the biggest concern in East and Southeast Asia."

Due to its price and accessibility, methamphetamine has taken on a new form of popularity in Australia. The drug is even gaining a growing number of middle class users.

While it might be disproportionately emanating from a province is the south of China, as long as the demand remains, methamphetamine is likely to keep turning up on our shores.

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