THREE EMPLOYEES at Slovak pharmaceuticals firm Slovakofarma, one a senior manager, have been charged in connection with a planned attempt to sell millions of euros of drugs illicitly in the EU.
Following a 10-month joint operation between Czech and Slovak customs forces, the offices of Slovakofarma's daughter company Intercaps, based in Zlín, Czech Republic, were raided on January 16.
Three Slovaks and two Czechs were arrested and more than two kilos of pure temazepam with a market value of two million euros was seized.
Evidence of an operation to illegally produce and distribute the drug was also discovered, Slovak customs officials said.
"If they had succeeded in starting up this trade, it would have produced millions in profits every month," said Jozef Luterán, head of the department of drugs and dangerous substances at the Slovak customs directorate.
Slovakofarma issued a statement on January 18 claiming that the arrests were the result of a "misunderstanding".
"Charges filed against three employees of Slovakofarma Hlohovec and two employees of its subsidiary Intercaps in Zlín for illegal production of narcotics are based on a misunderstanding which will be explained soon," said Pavol Hraška, Slovakofarma spokesman.
"We do not believe anyone is guilty," Hraška later added. "Temazepam is a common drug used as an ingredient in a number of other medicines."
Hraška added that Slovakofarma board member Eugen Candrák, who was among those charged, had the firm's full support. He said the whole company was shocked by the affair.
Customs officials said the group was believed to have been legally importing temazepam, a favourite among drug users for its quick effects, to Slovakofarma, refining it in Bratislava and then finishing its production in Zlín. It would then have been smuggled into EU states and sold illegally.
They added that one of the men, allegedly in charge of mixing the drugs, worked at the State Office for Medicine Control (SÚKL) in Bratislava. The SÚKL says it has fired the 63 year-old.
All five men have been charged with the illegal production and possession of narcotics. They face between five and 18 years in prison if found guilty.
28. Jan 2002 at 0:00 | Ed Holt