Police in HCM City have confiscated 1.2 tonnes of khat leaves imported from Africa and one case re-exported to the US. The leaves, which contain the stimulant cathinone, are banned in Việt Nam. — Photo thanhnien.com.vn
HCM CITY — Police in HCM City have confiscated 1.2 tonnes of khat leaves imported from Africa and one case re-exported to the US. The leaves, which contain the stimulant cathinone, are banned in Việt Nam.
The city police has set up a special task force, including HCM City Customs Department, General Customs Department and the Ministry of Public Security, among others, to help uncover khat drug trafficking rings in the country.
On Saturday, the force discovered a 336kg-batch of khat leaves imported from Kenya by a Vietnamese company based in Bình Thạnh District. The company had declared the product as “green tea”.
The same company, which police did not name, was caught importing 170kg of khat leaves on May 25.
On May 17, another company in District 1 imported 270kg of khat leaves disguised as “black tea” and hidden carefully in packages. The police later confiscated another 100kg of khat imported by this company.
On May 29, a Vietnamese man, whose name was not revealed, went to Tân Sơn Nhất airport to receive a gift package sent from Kenya, which turned out to contain 290kg of khat leaves, according to the police.
After the khat batches were imported to Việt Nam, they were re-exported to another country under the name of another leaf.
On May 18, a company in District 7 registered to export 34kg of khat leaves but declared them as dried “henna leaves”.
The company received a license to export the packages of leaves to the US from the Vegetation Quarantine Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The police force has not revealed the name of the companies and people involved.
Customs officials said the leaves were imported from Africa to Southeast Asian countries, including Việt Nam, and then re-exported to other countries.
Police said that if the 1.2 tonnes of khat leaves had been re-exported to the US, Australia and Europe, the owners would have gained an estimated US$2.2 million.
The use of dried khat leaves can cause many health problems and can have deadly repercussions.
According to an official in charge of investigating drug trafficking, Australian customs also confiscated about 800kg of khat leaves hidden carefully in a customer’s baggage at the end of last year.
Khat (Catha edulis), a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, contains a monoamine alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant, which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria.
In 1980, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence, although WHO does not consider khat to be seriously addictive.
It is considered illegal or a controlled substance in many countries, including Việt Nam, while its production, sale and consumption are legal in some African nations. — VNS