Thailand's $1bn seizure of 'ketamine' turns out to be cleaning powder

Red-faced Thai officials blame a ‘technical error’ after record $1bn seizure of ‘ketamine’ turns out to be cleaning powder

  • Thailand claimed to have seized 11.5 tonnes of ketamine earlier this month
  • Officials declared it ‘the largest ketamine bust’ with an estimated value of $1bn
  • After testing, the authorities admitted the claim had been a ‘misunderstanding’
  • The white powder turned out to be used as a food additive and cleaning agent

Thailand’s claim to have seized almost $1billion in contraband ketamine have turned out to be a ‘misunderstanding’.

The Thai authorities announced earlier this month that they had seized the substance, declaring it ‘Thailand’s largest ketamine bust’ and linking it to a multinational drug network.

But the white powder have been tested to be a cleaning agent, the country’s justice minister said Tuesday, blaming it ‘a ‘technical error’.

The Thai authorities announced earlier this month that they had seized the substance, declaring it ‘Thailand’s largest ketamine bust’ and linking it to a multinational drug network

On November 12, Thailand seized nearly 11.5 tonnes of white powder from a local warehouse after a tip-off from Taiwan. The picture shows the Thai police officers and relevant authorities inspecting after they seized the white powder inside a warehouse on November 12

On November 12, Thailand seized nearly 11.5 tonnes of white powder from a local warehouse after a tip-off from Taiwan. 

Convinced that it was ketamine, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) estimated the shipment to be worth about $950million (£710million) and pointed it to a multinational drug network.

‘The drugs are the largest amount ever seized in Thailand, with estimated value at Bt28.7 billion based on retail price,’ Wichai Chaimongkhol, ONCB secretary-general, told reporters at the time. 

But after further testing, the Thai justice minister said yesterday that the claim had been a ‘misunderstanding’ after the tests had so far not shown up any drugs.

The white powder is said to have been trisodium phosphate, a white powdered substance that can be used as a food additive and cleaning agent. 

Somsak Thepsuthin said tests which turned purple in the presence of ketamine hydrochloride reacted the same to trisodium phosphate. 

Somsak Thepsuthin (pictured on November 12), Thailand’s justice minister, said tests which turned purple in the presence of ketamine reacted the same to trisodium phosphate

After further testing, the Thai justice minister said yesterday that the seizure claim had been a ‘misunderstanding’, adding that the results had so far not shown up any drugs

Mr Somsak blamed the initial false claim on a ‘technical error’ in the field testing, according to local media.

As of Sunday, at lest 66 of 475 bags had been confirmed to be cleaning powder while tests continued, according to the official. 

‘This was a misunderstanding that our agency must accept,’ he told reporters. ‘This wasn’t a mistake. It’s new knowledge. 

In medicine, ketamine is used as an anaesthetic or an anti-depressant, but as a recreational drug it is used to induce dreamy or trance-like sensations, and sometimes hallucinations. 

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