Singapore is at crossroads of Ice trade

He claims that he never really had a problem getting Ice for his kicks.

A former user of the synthetic drug, Alex (not his real name), 26, said he could easily get it from his gang members who had contact with suppliers.

Ice, or methamphetamine, is seen by abusers as a "party" drug. But the health risks are serious.

Recent statistics from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) revealed that seizures of the drug went up by 151 per cent last year from 2010.

Last year, the CNB seized a total of 14kg of Ice, its largest haul ever.

Seizures of heroin went up by 48 per cent during the same period.

Alex, who began abusing drugs at 13, said he used to get his supplies from Malaysia.

The supplies were smuggled in using "secret compartments" in cars, and each time, they brought in about 500g to 1kg of drugs, he claimed.

"Many of the manufacturers were in Malaysia and some came in from Thailand. Those from Thailand were brought to Malaysia and then into Singapore," he said.

Alex was arrested when he was 15 and sent to a boys' home on two years' probation.

He was released early for good conduct and has since turned over a new leaf.

He did well in school and is now running a restaurant business.

Singapore is at the crossroads of the Ice trade.

'Attractive target'

A US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report last year said that Singapore is "an attractive target for money launderers and drug trans-shipment" because of its role as a major regional financial and transportation centre.

Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said Singapore's proximity to drug-producing countries and Singaporeans' relatively higher spending power in the region made this place a lucrative market for traffickers.

A total of 702 methamphetamine abusers were caught in 2010.

DPM Teo, who is also Minister for Home Affairs, said clandestine laboratories have also moved closer to Singapore.

These labs that produce Ice can be set up and vacated in just days.

Over the years, Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have busted many of these labs that produce millions of dollars worth of Ice.

A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said that in 2004 and 2006, large industrial-scale operations were dismantled.

A lab in Kulim, north Malaysia, which was busted in 2006, was one of the largest-ever drug labs busted in the world.

In March 2008, Malaysian authorities busted a mega drug lab in Johor Baru and seized 260kg of drugs worth RM44 million (S$18 million).

It was the biggest drug haul in the country that year.

The New Paper understands that such Ice labs have not been discovered here. But Singaporeans have been caught during raids on labs in Malaysia.

In the same March 2008 haul in JB, four Singaporeans were among a group of 13 men arrested.

Policing synthetic drugs hasn't been easy, said DPM Teo, as they are made from chemicals with bona-fide industrial uses.

The same 2008 UN report warned that synthetic drug abuse is on the rise, including in parts of South-east Asia.

The report also said that increasing wealth is partially fuelling demand.

In Singapore, one can be jailed for up to 10 years and/or fined up to $20,000 for taking or being found with methamphetamine.

Those caught trafficking more than 250g of the drug face the death penalty.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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