A former vice president of a pharmaceutical association has been arrested for allegedly aiding in the production of 4.7 tons of methamphetamine. Laurentiu Huica is accused of producing a medication registered only in Romania, which was then used to make drugs in labs across several Eastern European countries. The estimated profit from this illegal activity is nearly half a billion euros.
Laurențiu Huică, former vice-president of the Romanian Association of Drug Manufacturers, was detained for 24 hours, along with another Romanian citizen, for constituting an organized criminal group, placing on the market substances classified as precursors, in continuous form, and complicity in domestic trafficking of high-risk drugs, G4Media sources say.
According to DIICOT, between January 2021 and February 2023, the two, together with foreign nationals (Czech, Slovak, Polish, Lithuanian), set up a cross-border organized criminal group that operated on the territory of several states in the European Union area, namely Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Romania, „with the aim of removing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine precursors from the legal circuit, in order to support the production of methamphetamine in clandestine laboratories on the territory of Poland and the Czech Republic,” prosecutors announced.
The company Arena Group SA, owned by Huică, was used to purchase ephedrine and pseudoephedrine and transform them into a drug according to a formula that allowed them to be dissolved and extracted quickly in clandestine laboratories where they were used in methamphetamine production.
„The precursors were incorporated into two pharmaceutical products, 50 and 120-milligram tablets of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, one of which was registered as an authorized medicine only in Romania (not authorized in any other EU country), without obtaining export authorization. As regards the second product, the Romanian company did not have authorization for production and placing on the market in Romania or in EU countries. These tablets were not delivered to hospitals or pharmacies in Romania.
The pills produced in Romania were sent to companies in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Spain, which purchased them without having marketing authorization in those countries, but they did not reach their declared destination, but rather various locations in Poland, from where they were taken by a member of the organized criminal group, a Polish national.
On Polish territory, the deliveries were split into smaller quantities and sent to the Czech and Slovak Republics, where they were distributed to laboratories where precursors for the illicit production of methamphetamine were extracted,” prosecutors say.
Most of the clandestine methamphetamine laboratories identified in the Czech Republic and Poland used tablets produced in Romania as raw material. In order to prevent detection of the criminal activity, the locations where the laboratories were improvised and their surroundings were guarded by members of the organized criminal group.
Using the ‘Czech method’ of producing methamphetamine in clandestine laboratories, approximately 0.70 kilograms of methamphetamine were obtained from one kilogram of ephedrine/pseudoephedrine hydrochloride.
During the period in question, the members of the criminal group organised the transport and delivery to the purchasing companies of more than 168 million tablets in which the precursors ephedrine and pseudoephedrine (approximately 6.7 tonnes of ephedrine hydrochloride) were incorporated by manufacture, from which a total quantity of approximately 4.7 tonnes of methamphetamine could be produced.
„We note that the price of one kilogram of methamphetamine is approximately 40,000 euros at wholesale, and for one gram of methamphetamine, the selling price is between 70 and 100 euros. Based on these prices, the value of the drugs obtained by processing the precursors exported from Romania is between 187 million euros (when selling per kilogram) and 468 million euros (when selling per gram),” prosecutors claim.
Arena Group made a total of 97 deliveries to companies in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Spain during the period of the criminal group’s activities.
Thus, in the period from January 2021 to February 2023, the two defendants organized the production, storage, delivery, transport, and distribution to 7 pharmaceutical companies in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Spain of tablets containing scheduled substances (precursors – addictive substances), for which the companies, except for two of them, did not have a license and marketing authorizations registered with the competent national authorities, provided for by the relevant national and European regulations.
In the course of the prosecution, in order to document the criminal activity, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was set up between Romania (Directorate for the Investigation of Organised Crime and Terrorism – Central Structure) and the judicial authorities of Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, with the support of EUROJUST and EUROPOL. EUROJUST also organized three coordination meetings and provided support in the conduct of the criminal investigation in the states involved.
During the searches carried out in Romania on 01.03.2023, approximately 3 tonnes of category I precursors, several batches of medicines, and the sum of approximately €600,000 were seized and several documents of interest in the case were identified.
As a result of the activities carried out on the territory of Poland, as of 26.02.2023, preventive measures were ordered against 8 persons involved in the diversion of ephedrine/pseudoephedrine-containing drug shipments originating from the factory in Romania. A van with a Polish registration number (which was left with pallets of medicines from the city of Voluntari, from the medicine factory) was identified on 26.02.2023 on the territory of Poland, and the persons involved (including the leader of this group) were caught in the act of unloading the medicines at a place other than the one registered on the CMR; in a warehouse of the group various tablets and about 100 vials of ephedrine from the factory in Romania were identified. At the same time, 177,215 euros and 366,200 zlotys were identified and seized.
As a result of the activities carried out on the territory of Slovakia, as of 26.02.2023, preventive measures were ordered against 4 persons. During the house searches the amount of 1,129,220 euros was seized.
On 27.02.2023, the representatives of the Czech Prosecutor’s Office and the Czech Police ordered preventive measures against 2 persons. In the course of the activities, documents relating to the sale of a company were seized, and amounts in bank accounts in the amount of 148,103 euros, 711,082 kroons, and 22,433 zlotys were seized.
A total of 16 persons were ordered to be taken into custody in the three countries.
The action was supported by police officers from the Directorate for Combating Organised Crime – Anti-Drug Service, the Directorate for Combating Organised Crime – Service for Combating Cybercrime and the Service for Combating Economic and Financial Macrocrime, border guards from the General Inspectorate of Border Police and fighters from the Special Intervention and Action Service.
Specialist support was provided by the Special Operations Directorate, the National Anti-Drug Agency and the International Police Cooperation Centre – Europol National Unit.
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