German, Swiss Police Search 600 homes, Arrest 16 in Drug Raids

Swiss and German police arrested 16 people and uncovered 17 laboratories during hundreds of raids across three countries targeting an alleged synthetic drugs network, officials in Bern and Munich said Thursday.

Hundreds of police took part in the coordinated raids at 600 addresses Wednesday in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They arrested eight people in Germany and eight in Switzerland.

The raids followed months of investigations started after police became suspicious of online orders for the legal chemical GBL, which is found in industrial cleaners but can be used to make the date-rape drug GHB.

Most of the orders were placed to a 37-year-old chemical salesman living near Munich. He was arrested early Wednesday and charges against him are to be filed on Thursday.

Senior German public prosecutor Dagmer Illini said that the suspect worked with two partners: a 37-year-old resident of Neu-Ulm, a town in Bavaria, and a third man in northern Germany. Illini said the men "ran a roaring trade in chemicals."

In Germany, nearly 1,300 police took part in Wednesday's raids and they found fifteen drug laboratories.

A statement from Bavarian state investigators said that police searching for chemicals used to make GHB raided some 340 homes and offices. They confiscated more than 31 liters (8 gallons) of GHB, 53 liters (14 gallons) of GBL and 1,800 grams (4 pounds) of amphetamines.

Mario Huber, leader of the state investigator's office in Bavaria, said it was a "large police action that took place in the battle against synthetic drugs."

Huber said that police also found cocaine and marijuana and "pretty much everything that one can imagine."

Swiss police searched 34 homes in 18 cantons (states), questioned 38 people and found chemicals and drugs, Fedpol said.

Police seized two laboratories used for producing drugs, an indoor cannabis plantation and at least five improvised laboratories in kitchens alleged to have been used to produce GHB, according to Fedpol.