Drug motive behind chemical theft

SHAUN EADE
Last updated 15:05 23/07/2014

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Police believe the gathering of methamphetamine precursors was, once again, the motive behind the theft of a potentially lethal chemical from Pokeno's Pacific Biofert on Friday.

It was the third time the company has been targeted in 10 months.

Exactly one month after thieves broke into the fertilizer company's offices to steal a 25 kilogram drum of sodium iodide, an ingredient that can be used to manufacture the class A drug known as crystal meth, they stole a similar 25kg drum of the highly toxic sodium selenate.

The incidents follow a similar theft from the same company in October last year where thieves also took a drum of sodium iodide.

On July 10, Franklin County News reported the fertilizer company would no longer sell organically-certified Moana Iodine Chelate, its only product which used sodium iodide, as it had become too difficult for the ingredients to be delivered and stored safely.

Pacific Biofert manager Bill Sinclair said the latest theft was potentially the most dangerous.

''Sodium selenate is not a drug precursor product, the concern with it is in its raw form, it is very toxic,'' he said.

Pokeno Community Constable Richard Wright said Friday's theft was very similar to the last one, including motorcycle tracks at the scene.

''I think they have probably gone there looking for sodium iodide and they probably thought it was exactly the same and taken it,'' he said.

The thieves smashed the storeroom window but they could not get in because of bars over it so used the back door to break in.

Sinclair was ''gutted'' they were targeted again.

''We have discontinued a product line because of the problem.

''It was an important product to us because it was a service product into the dairy industry and for farmers who have iodine deficiencies, it was a gentle way of getting iodine into the animals.''

Police are ''highly concerned'' because the sodium selenate that was stolen can be lethal if handled incorrectly.

''It will actually kill you,'' Wright said.

Sodium selenate has the appearance of white powder around the consistency of fine sugar. It was secured in a blue metal drum and was clearly marked.Pukekohe's Inspector Mick Woods hoped the chemical would be returned.

''We're appealing to whoever is responsible for the theft to please put it somewhere secure and call us,'' he said.

The investigation into the thefts were ongoing and police were following some leads, said Acting Senior Sergeant Danny Hodson. 

If you find the drum of sodium selenate, you should stay away from it and call 111, or  CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

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- Waikato Times

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