Africa-Press – Mozambique. The Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC) and the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) today neutralised a clandestine factory producing the highly addictive sedative drug Mandrax in Matola, Maputo province.
Four individuals were arrested in the operation – two of Chinese nationality and two Mozambicans.
Police spokesperson Joice Martins said the factory had been operating for three months, and that the drug was manufactured by the two foreign citizens.
“Here, we only have workers, who are the serving crew at this factory. Some are Chinese nationals, who are, according to us, the main engineers, who handle and operate the machines,” he said.
The factory was disguised as a workshop and corn flour warehouse.
“It’s a cover operation. There’s a workshop and a maize flour production plant here. These are the services that are apparently being carried out, but the main activity is the production of drugs,” he added.
Martins said there was more than half a ton of drugs at the site, but the investigation is still enumerating the contents of the place, and will provide a summary of the actual quantities seized later.
The two Chinese nationals declined to make a statement to the press, while the Mozambicans transporting the product said they did not know they were transporting drugs.
“I’ve been working here three months,” one of the Mozambicans arrested said. “They would send us out to destinations but we didn’t know what they were doing – we just went out to do our work. When they finished [manufacturing], they’d call us to transport the goods.”
The drug Mandrax – often referred to as ‘Quaaludes’ – contains methaqualone, a sedative, hypnotic agent. It was placed under Schedule 2 of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances due to abuse, addiction and the high potential for dependence among users. Methaqualone is now predominantly produced in clandestine labs due to its illegality.
The fact that synthesising methaqualone is not a complicated process makes it appealing to criminal networks and illicit drug manufacturers. It usually involves chemical reactions that can be simply performed in clandestine labs.
One of the primary precursors essential for this process is anthranilic acid, which is also a key ingredient in the manufacturing of dyes, perfumes and colourants, among other things. When clandestinely produced, methaqualone has a brown, grey or black tacky powder of between 30% to 70% purity. Drug dealers also use the powder as a cutting agent for heroin. (Cutting increases bulk, dilutes, complements or enhances the effects of the illicit drugs.)
While Mandrax was originally meant to be taken orally, users tend to smoke or inject the drug for a faster onset of effect.
Mandrax is extremely addictive and can become dangerous when mixed with other substances. Side effects include dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, chills and diarrhoea. There have been instances where an overdose of the drug has resulted in delirium, convulsions and even death.