Sofia, 30 December 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgarian special police forces have successfully broken up a major production site for illegal synthetic narcotics, and authorities are calling it their most successful move so far against organized crime.
Situated in a complex of industrial buildings in the village of Opitzvet, just west of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, the drugs factory was manufacturing amphetamine-based products mostly for export to Germany, but also for the local Bulgarian market.
In the raid, which took place before Christmas, 15 white-camouflaged police of the special anti-Mafia squad waited all night in snow outside the perimeter fence of the factory. A police spokesman said that when the order came to storm the compound, the police were able to achieve complete surprise, and there were no casualties.
The raid followed eight months of patient observation of the suspect facility by police officers disguised as hunters, soldiers or merely farmers passing by.
On the night in question some 300 kilograms of synthetic narcotics with an estimated street value of $5 million were seized. Also netted was the man who police say is the brain behind the operation, scientist Valery Todorov Stoyanov. He allegedly built the installation and managed production.
Stoyanov, a former university lecturer, allegedly carried out high-grade synthesizing of the basic ingredients himself, as these base substances are not legally obtainable without a certificate from the Ministry of Health Care. He reputedly earned $1,000 per 40-hour production cycle.
The police say the drug factory was spread over three buildings and worked non-stop producing 50 kilograms of narcotics every 40 hours from a large-capacity reactor.
Some 10 tons of benzol were in an underground storage area awaiting processing. The authorities expressed astonishment at the scale and modernity of the equipment, saying much of it is unmatched at legal commercial chemical installations elsewhere in the country.
Colonel Kiril Radev, director of the National Service for Combating Organized Crime, told journalists afterwards that the police had moved "just in time". He said an undercover distribution of the factory's products was about to begin to Bulgarian schools.
Radev said that apart from Stoyanov, the principals in the drugs ring were known to police. He did not give any names nor details of further arrests, but he implied that the man described as the owner of the plant was abroad at the time of the raid. Radev said his whereabouts are known.
The authorities say the equipment found at the site shows that production was about to start of two amphetamine-based drugs now fashionable among teenagers, namely Ecstasy and Captagon.
Ecstasy, which is unpredictable in use, is held responsible for the deaths of a number of young people around the world. People say that in Sofia's discotheques, a single pill of Ecstasy sells for just over $11.