Thailand's $1bn ketamine bust probably just chemicals after all

Thai authorities have admitted that an 11.5-tonne drug bust may contain an innocent chemical used as a food additive or cleaning agent – and not ketamine, as they believed.

Thailand’s anti-narcotics bureau had hailed the seizure of what they said was nearly a billion dollars’ worth of ketamine – an anaesthetic that can also be used as a party drug.

But tests on 66 of the 450 sacks of white powder seized in a warehouse near Bangkok revealed it to be trisodium phosphate, a compound with various industrial uses.

Having announcing the haul with great fanfare, officials were forced to hold a news conference on Tuesday to explain the error.

The justice minister Somsak Thepsuthin said that when the test for ketamine is applied to trisodium phosphate it can produce a false positive result.

“The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime even said that this type of mistake happened in other countries as well, but this was the first time in Thailand,” Somsak said.

Forensic scientists are carrying out tests to see what the remaining sacks contain.

The kingdom is a major transit route for drug trafficking, particularly methamphetamines and heroin from the so-called “Golden Triangle” of northern Thailand, Laos, China and Myanmar.


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