Nigeria's national drug enforcement agency has announced that it has dismantled West Africa's first industrial-scale crystal meth lab, and said that it was built with Mexican know-how.
"The Nigerians invited the Mexicans in to leverage their expertise in these industrial-scale, high-yield productions," the agency's spokesman, Mitchell Ofoyeju, told reporters.
He said that eight people, including four Mexicans, were arrested in the operation to dismantle the lab that had carried out a successful test production last month.
Nigerian media reported that the "super laboratory," located in the Asaba Delta state, had the capacity to produce four tons of crystal meth per week, and was aiming to sell its product in Asia.
"Nigerian methamphetamine is now competing with others in Asian and South African markets. The super laboratory does not need ephedrine because it uses the synthesis method," Ofoyeju was cited as saying in the local newsite Naija.com. "Drug cartels are now shifting from a simple method of methamphetamine production to a more complex process."
The official did not give any information regarding what drug trafficking organization the four arrested Mexicans are believed to be associated with. Mexico's foreign ministry, meanwhile, released a statement saying that it is still checking out whether any of them are indeed Mexican, before going on to "verify their legal and physical condition."
West Africa has a well-established reputation as an important trafficking route for Latin American cocaine on its way to Europe. More recent reports suggest the region is also gaining importance as a hub for the production of methamphetamine, mostly heading for Asia.
An investigation by the Reuters news agency last year, highlighted the role played by Mexican drug cartels within this.
"They are not just mom and pop labs, they are big labs," DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told the agency. "Mexicans aren't going to come over and train (people) unless they are dealing in large amounts."
Mexican involvement in drugs production in Africa and Asia first made headlines in Mexico in 2012 when a Malaysian court sentenced three brothers to hang after they were found guilty of trafficking methamphetamine.
Malaysia's highest court ratified the sentences a year ago, though they still have one last chance of obtaining a royal pardon. The brothers, who come from the state of Sinaloa which is known as the "cradle" of Mexican drug trafficking, have always maintained that they are innocent. They say they had been hired to clean the warehouse where the drugs were found, but knew nothing about them.
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