BANGKOK — When journalists and U.N. representatives were invited to witness a raid on a warehouse last month, they were told by the justice minister that Thailand had just intercepted 11 tonnes of ketamine intended for Taiwan – the largest amount confiscated ever on record.
But lab tests announced by officials on Tuesday said the operation yielded only a pinch of ketamine, or 1.2 gram to be precise. The rest was, well, something else disguised as drugs.
“We compared with the evidence seized by Taiwanese authorities and found that the smugglers switched the sacks at the warehouse before sending them abroad,” Narcotics Control Board chairman Wichai Chaimongkol said.
“That’s why only a trace of ketamine was found,” he continued. “However, we can still take legal action since it can be considered as a narcotic possession.”
Top: The Office of Narcotics Control Board announces what was billed as the ‘Biggest Ketamine Bust’ ever in Thailand on Nov. 12, 2020.
Under Thai law, those caught with over 0.5 gram of ketamine, a Category 2 drug, face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a 100,000 baht fine. Offenders face a more severe punishment if their possession is intended for exports.
A total of 493 sacks containing material suspected to be ketamine were confiscated by the law enforcement in November after a tip-off from law enforcement agents in Taiwan, who also confiscated 300-kilogram of ketamine hidden in similar sacks shipped from Thailand.
But once the camera flashes died down, officials announced that 66 of the 493 sacks taken in by the authorities turn out to be trisodium phosphate, a chemical compound used in pharmaceutical and food production as additives and cleaning agents.
Wichai said the rest of the shipment contained the same chemicals. The agency will take the incident as a lesson to improve narcotics detection techniques in the future, he added.
“We had never seen a case where narcotics were mixed up with other substances intended for exports,” Wichai said. “We only saw narcotics concealed in other articles in the past.”
Police said two suspects are under arrest in connection with the cargo, though few details about them are available.