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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Police burn $7.6b worth of 'ecstasy oil'

A joint operation between Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Cambodian authorities has led to the destruction of one of the world's largest illegal stockpiles of the oil used as a precursor to manufacture ecstasy.

AFP officers are overseeing the burning of 33 tonnes of safrole-rich oil in Cambodia.

The oil is taken from the sassafras tree, a rare species which only grows in the Cardamom Mountains.

AFP Assistant Commissioner for Border and International Tim Morris says the oil is worth about $7.6 billion.

"That would have been manufactured into the precursor MDP2P in neighbouring countries, then in all likelihood into the production of MDMA or ecstasy tablets," he said.

"It would have produced, by our calculations, 245 million ecstasy tablets and a lot of those would have made their way onto the Australian market."

Assistant Commissioner Morris says six members of the AFP's Specialist Response Amphetamine Type Stimulants team are involved.

"We've moved [the barrels] to a remote area of western Cambodia in a disused quarry and essentially they're burnt," he said.

"This is the best practice way of disposing of these types of oils."

Assistant Commissioner Morris says the burning is the result of three years' hard work by the Cambodian National Police.

"The Cambodians are also trying to preserve their sassafras tree forests in this part of Cambodia which are actually destroyed while extracting the oil," he said.

"So there's a two pronged reason from the Cambodian perspective - saving the sassafras forests but also preventing the production of this safrole-rich oil."

The burn is expected to finish tomorrow.

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