The four Mexicans apparently wanted to be pioneers of sorts. But they were breaking the law in a big way, Nigerian officials say, to achieve that distinction.
Nigerian drug agents say they have arrested four Mexicans who were helping to build a methamphetamine "super lab." It is believed to have had the potential to rake in billions of dollars, the nation's National Drug Law Enforcement Agency said Monday.
Spokesman Mitchell Ofoyeju said it was the first industrial-scale production of crystal meth found in West Africa, and possibly on the continent.
"The Nigerians invited the Mexicans in to leverage their expertise in these industrial-scale, high-yield productions," said Ofoyeju.
The warehouse in southern Delta state could produce 4,000 kilograms (8,800 pounds) a week of the synthetic drug, which sells for $6,000 a kilogram in Nigeria but as much as $300,000 a kilogram in the Asian markets favored by Nigerian drug dealers, Ofoyeju told the Associated Press.
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The lab completed a first successful production in February, and the agents raided it as the Mexicans were producing a second run, Ofoyeju said. Only 1.5 kilograms of crystal meth were recovered along with 750 liters (200 gallons) of liquid methamphetamine.
Mexico's Foreign Relations office said its embassy in Nigeria was working with local authorities to confirm the suspects' identities and nationalities and determine their legal status.
The raid came after an undercover operation that also netted the arrests of four Nigerians last Wednesday. The eight arrests happened in simultaneous raids in two southern towns and the commercial capital of the country, Lagos.
Separately, Nigeria's drug enforcement agency announced the weekend arrest of suspected drug baron Tochukwu Harris Ubah in connection with the seizure at Lagos seaport of 576 kilograms (1,270 pounds) of crystal meth and ephedrine — which is used in small-scale production. It was bound for Durban, South Africa.
The first crystal meth labs in West Africa were discovered in Nigeria in 2011, and 10 have since been dismantled. The West African Drug Commission has warned that drug lords are corrupting politicians and law enforcers in the country, and even running for office themselves.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.
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