Belgian pharma bosses 'accused of selling to Mexican drug baron'

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Brussels (AFP)

Belgian federal prosecutors are seeking to bring to court seven pharmaceutical executives accused of supplying a Mexican drug baron with the key ingredients for crystal meth, they said Wednesday.

Prosecutors began an inquiry in 2009 based on information from Belgian police and customs officials, said Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office.

The probe centred on events alleged to have occurred between 2006 and 2011.

The spokesman refused to confirm the names of the companies implicated or the identities of the executives involved in the alleged conspiracy.

A magistrate will decide on April 5 whether the case should go to trial.

According to several Dutch-language newspapers the companies made medicines containing ephedrine, a drug that constricts blood vessels and is often used in cough remedies.

Ephedrine is also the key ingredient in the highly addictive and widely banned narcotic methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth.

The buyer is believed to be Mexico's Ezio Figueroa Vasquez, described in 2012 by the US Treasury as a major international drug trafficker, according to the Nieuwsblad newspaper.

He is reported to have received at least four tonnes of ephedrine from the Belgian companies which could have been used to make as much as 66 million capsules of the drug, with an estimated street value of 360 million euros ($370 million).

Prosecutors have declined to confirm the amounts reported in the Belgian media, claiming that estimates were proving "difficult".

A lawyer for one of the pharmaceutical companies named in local press reports, Andacon, insisted the firm had acted in good faith.

"The company made two shipments of two million pills containing pseudoephedrine in 2006," Bram Van Loo told the Belga news agency.

"These medicines were freely available then. My clients delivered to a reliable commercial partner and had no idea of the inappropriate use of the drugs."