Paris police have arrested three people on suspicion of robbing victims while they were in a hypnotic state brought on by the drug scopolamine.
The Telegraph reports that two Chinese women approached people on the street and blew the drug into their faces. Once the victims – who were often elderly – had fallen under the influence of the drug, the two women accompanied them to their homes and asked them to hand over all their valuables. One victim was reportedly robbed of £73,500 worth of stuff.
The pair were finally stopped when a victim identified them in a Metro station, and the police discovered "various Chinese medicinal substances" in the women's hotel room in north east Paris. The third suspect, a 56-year-old man, is thought to have prepared the drug.
Scopolamine – also known as "Devil's Breath" – can be used in very small doses to treat sickness and nausea, but too much brings on drowsiness and hallucinations. It comes from the borrachero tree, native to South America, and is most commonly found in Colombia.
In our 2013 documentary, VICE's Ryan Duffy called scopolamine "the most dangerous drug in the world", as it is colourless, odourless and takes effect almost instantly. It robs the users of their free will and often causes amnesia, meaning the victims in Paris may have no recollection of what really happened.
Dr Miriam Gutierrez, a toxicologist, told VICE: "From the medical point of view it's the perfect substance for criminal acts because the victim won't remember anything and therefore won't report anything." In Colombia, the drug is used by criminals to induce a kind of "zombie" state.
The two suspects in the Paris attack have passports that show recent trips to Mexico, where they could have picked up the drug. It's likely that other members of the gang are still active in Europe, and their profits have already been sent back to China. French police have disclosed the suspects' identities to Chinese authorities, who linked them with a notorious, criminal network that acts around the world and "specialises in mental submission with the aid of unknown products".