couple nabbed over drug-making lab

KWAZULU-NATAL police yesterday arrested a Durban couple they believe is behind the operation of a multi-million rand drug- manufacturing laboratory.

Morgan Gounden, 44, and his wife Nirusha Gounden, 36, were allegedly caught red-handed with a consignment of drugs.

The couple appeared in the Verulam magistrate's court and were remanded in police custody.

They will appear in court again on April 7.

According to police, the drugs seized have a street value of more than R10million.

They included 200000 Mandrax tablets, 20000 kilograms of base powder and 250litres of chemicals used to manufacture the highly addictive Mandrax tablets.

Members of the SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit headed the raid on a farm in Tongaat. Police have been investigating this matter for the past four months.

They first went to a house in Newlands West where they found 80 Mandrax tablets and ammunition.

Police spokesperson Director Phindile Radebe said: "Through investigation, police proceeded to a farm in Tongaat where they surprised the couple.

"All the products were stored in a newly built three-roomed house behind the main house where the manufacturing took place."

Radebe said the drugs are now being sampled by SAPS forensic experts.

Radebe added that their plan was to neutralise drug syndicates in the province.

"The SAPS in KwaZulu-Natal is firmly focused on the seizure of drugs and neutralising drug syndicates through intelligence and disruption operations.

"The seizure of the consignment of drugs will no doubt seriously impact on the availability of drugs on the street market. We believe that prices on available drugs will now be inflated," she said.

Radebe said they were also trying to get to the bottom of who supplied base powder to the couple.

South Africa is one of the biggest producers of Mandrax in the world. Statistics show that Mandrax and dagga are drugs of preference in most parts of South Africa. Mandrax is mainly sold in the form of a tablet and is highly addictive.

Radebe said more arrests were imminent.