BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany has seized chemicals that could make 184 million euros (S$296 million) worth of crystal meth and arrested 15 people in a breakthrough drug bust involving the Czech Republic, police said on Thursday.
The record haul of 2.9 tonnes of chlorephedrine, enough to make 2.3 tonnes of crystal meth, contrasted with 80 kilograms of the drug seized in Germany last year and reflected mounting worries about drug trafficking from the nearby Czech Republic.
Police in the two countries arrested 15 people in areas close to their border in early November, netting the suspected ringleader, a 32-year old pharmaceuticals merchant from the east German city of Leipzig.
A months-long investigation found that chlorephedrine was being transported to the Czech Republic for manufacture in batches of 10-20 kilograms before being sent back to Germany for sale.
Police also raided 24 properties and confiscated cash, ammunition, stolen passports and dozens of mobile telephones. "Crystal meth is quickly addictive and extremely dangerous ... Securing nearly 3 tonnes of chlorephedrine is a significant success," Joerg Ziercke, president of Germany's BKA federal police, said in a statement.
Crystal meth, which has increasingly been produced in large amounts by Czech drug gangs and exported to Germany, has been a sore point in Czech-German relations over the last few years and several ministerial meetings have been held on the issue.
In the Czech Republic, meth amphetamine, called 'pervitin'or 'pernik', which means gingerbread, has been a popular and cheap drug since the Communist era that ended 25 years ago. Increasingly, gangs have taken over the lucrative business.