The National Policy Agency said yesterday it had filed for arrest warrants on three South Koreans and a Pakistani for smuggling a chemical compound commonly used to produce heroin into Afghanistan.
According to the police, the four men smuggled two tons of acetic anhydride to Kandahar, a base for the Islamist group Taliban in Afghanistan, in February. Then between June and July, they tried to send seven more tons of the material to Afghanistan through Dubai. An official with the South Korean police said the smuggled goods could produce about 4.5 tons of heroin.
Interpol detained the Pakistani in Dubai last Tuesday and South Korean authorities caught the three other men in Yangju, Gyeonggi, on Thursday when they tried to smuggle out three tons of acetic anhydride.
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The detained men have admitted to the smuggling charge, but said they didn’t receive any direct orders from the Taliban, the police said.
From the Korea Times, which gives different information about those arrested in an article "Taliban-Linked Drug Smugglers Arrested":
Police arrested two Pakistanis and a Korean man Sunday for smuggling massive quantities of acetic anhydride, a raw material for heroin production. They are suspected of being linked to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
According to the Police National Agency, the three suspects had used South Korea since last February as a shipping point for several tons of acetic anhydride destined for Afghanistan.
And a Korean-language Korea Times article from early this morning says two Pakistanis, two Koreans. Newsis says four, but doesn't mention the Korean guys.
This isn't the first time this drug has turned up in large quantities in South Korea. From last July:
Police said two Afghans, three Pakistanis and four Koreans tried to use South Korea as a shipping point for several tons of acetic anhydride destined for southern Afghanistan.
The chemical is heated with morphine, extracted from opium, to produce heroin.
"The key Afghan suspect admitted he did it at the instigation of the Taliban," Oh Ki-Duk, an investigator, told AFP. "But he claimed he is not a member of the Taliban."
Police confiscated 12 tons of acetic anhydride in a chemical engineering factory in the Seoul suburb of Ansan and arrested the two Afghans. The chemical was disguised as motor oil.
In a separate operation by the three Pakistanis -- who were also arrested in a Seoul suburb -- police said about 50 tons of the chemical had already been shipped, labelled as disinfectant.
The Korea Times has more---in an article that includes an Indian among those caught---on that bust, one which a Korean foreign affairs investigation officer said was the biggest bust of acetic anhydride ever.