Former chemistry professor part of meth gang that cooked up drugs for sale in China: Police

BEIJING (AFP) - A former chemistry professor has been identified by the Chinese police as part of a gang which cooked up synthetic drugs for sale nationwide, media reported Tuesday.

The 50-year-old former academic surnamed Lu had "a set of recipes for producing methcathinone", a drug similar to methamphetamine, which he provided to dealers, China Business News (CBN) reported.

Prof Lu "worked as a professor of chemistry at a university" in Xian, the capital of the northern province of Shaanxi, before teaming up with a drug manufacturer surnamed Chen in 2013, CBN cited police as saying.

It was not clear whether Prof Lu had been held but his alleged activities echo those of the fictional former professor Walter White, who sold "crystal meth", a form of methamphetamine, in the hit US TV show "Breaking Bad".

Police detained Chen and six other people after finding 128kg of methcathinone at a manufacturing facility in Shaanxi, along with 2,000kg of ingredients for the drug, last May, the report added.

Chinese state media last week cited the government as saying the country has 14 million drug users, about one percent of the population, and their numbers had increased by an annual average of 36 percent in recent years.

Use of synthetic drugs, such as crystal meth and methcathinone, which can induce euphoric highs, are reported to be growing in rural areas.

Chinese authorities deployed helicopters, speedboats and paramilitary police to seize three tonnes of methamphetamine last year in a raid on a village in the southern province of Guangdong.

A Chinese police raid on the house of two methcathinone dealers in 2011 uncovered a pile of 80 million yuan (S$17.1 million) in cash, reports said at the time.