- Rogue state believed to produce meth with ‘Breaking Bad’ level potency
- Five men were arrested in Thailand and included two from UK, one from China, and two members of a Hong Kong-based organized crime group
- Accused of trying to smuggle 100 kilos of the drug, worth about $3.7m
- Five men face between 10 years and life if convicted of charges
- Manhattan-based attorneys said they hoped the arrests would help close the ‘floodgates’ of meth into New York and beyond
Five foreigners, including two Britons, have been charged with plotting to smuggle 100 kilograms of methamphetamine worth about $3.7million from North Korea into the U.S.
The men were arrested in Thailand in September and brought to New York on Tuesday night. They were to appear in federal court in New York City on Wednesday.
Britons Scott Stammers and Philip Shackels were arrested along with three men from China, Thailand and the Phillipines.
They face between 10 years and a life sentence if found guilty of the charges.
‘Methamphetamine is a dangerous, potentially deadly drug, whatever its origin.
‘If it ends up in our neighborhoods, the threat it poses to public health is grave whether it is produced in New York, elsewhere in the U.S., or in North Korea,’ U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
According to court papers, the suppliers sold more than 30 kilograms of North Korean meth in 2012 that was seized by authorities in Thailand and in the Philippines.
The meth tested more than 99 per cent pure, the papers said.
In 2013, the suppliers agreed to provide 100 kilograms to confidential sources working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the papers said.
Defendant Le Tiong Tan Lim, from China, allegedly bragged that the organization was the only one able to get meth from North Korea after pressure by the U.S. prompted a government crackdown on production there.
The same defendant boasted that the North Korean product was 99 per cent pure methamphetamine, or Breaking Bad level potency.
The North Korean government ‘already burned all the labs. Only our labs are not closed,’ the defendant said during a meeting with the fake buyers, according to court papers.
‘To show the Americans that they are not selling it anymore, they burned it.’
The United States in the past has accused North Korea of trafficking meth.
The defendant claimed to have stockpiled one ton of meth because of the diplomatic tensions.
After the meeting, the suppliers sent a sample to the United States that tested 98 per cent pure, the papers said.
They agreed to deliver the drugs to Thailand, where they were to be stashed in a boat and smuggled into the United States.
A fourth defendant Alexander Lnu is accused of organizing an armed group of bikers to act security for the shipment.
The fifth man, Kelly Allan Reyes Peralta, from the Philippines, allegedly met undercover officials in January along with his co-defendants.
The case demonstrates ‘the emergence of North Korea as a significant source of methamphetamine in the global drug trade,’ DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement.
Authorities in Thailand described the men as accomplices of Joseph Hunter, a former American soldier who was arrested on the same day as the others in Thailand.
He pleaded not guilty in September to charges in New York that he was a contract killer.
An indictment alleged that Hunter, also known as ‘Rambo,’ recruited a group of ex-snipers to be a security team for drug traffickers.
U.S. prosecutors declined to discuss the connection between Hunter and the drug defendants.
N.Korea May Be Smuggling Super-Potent Meth Into US, Reports Say
North Korea may be pushing a highly potent form of methamphetamine into the United States, with one peddler bragging about a 1-ton stockpile with “Breaking Bad” purity levels, reports said Wednesday.
ABC News reported that five foreign nationals arrested in Thailand were charged with being part of an Asia-based syndicate that plotted to smuggle meth produced in North Korea into New York.
Court records indicate suppliers agreed to sell 100 kg of North Korean meth — at $60,000 per kg — to a drug trafficker who was actually working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
One of the defendants bragged his organization was the only one that could score meth from North Korea after a government crackdown.
“The North Korean government already burned all the labs,” court records quoted the defendant as saying, ABC News reported. “Only our labs are not closed. To show Americans that they are not selling it anymore, they burned it. Then they transfer to another base.”
He said his group had a meth stockpile of more than a ton, with “Breaking Bad” levels of 99 percent purity.
The Wednesday indictment stemmed from a larger investigation that led to the September arrest of former Army sharpshooter Joseph Hunter — nicknamed “Rambo” — and four others, NBC News reported.
The five men facing charges are British citizens Scott Stammers and Philip Shackels; Chinese citizen Ye Tiong Tan Lim; Kelly Allan Reyes Peralta, of the Philippines; and Alexander Lnu, thought to be a Slovak resident of Thailand, CNN reported.
“Methamphetamine is a dangerous, potentially deadly drug, whatever its origin,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, NBC News reported.
“The threat it poses to public health is grave whether it is produced in New York, elsewhere in the U.S., or in North Korea. This investigation shows our determination to close a potential floodgate of supply.”
A law enforcement source told NBC News that Hunter was accused in September of leading a ring of globe-trotting contract killers who worked for drug traffickers. Court papers outlined a plot to assassinate a DEA agent and an informant in Liberia for $800,000.
CNN noted that U.S. allegations that the North Korean government aids in or allows the illegal drug trade have long been an irritant in the tense relationship between the two countries.
The current DEA investigation could bolster the U.S. claims.