Asia's multibillion dollar methamphetamine cartels are using creative chemistry to outfox police, experts say

Updated 1:55 AM ET, Tue May 4, 2021

(CNN)The shipping container raised suspicions as soon as it arrived in remote northwestern Laos last July.

Paperwork showed it was packed with 72 tons worth of blue vats filled with propionyl chloride, a relatively obscure chemical, and bound for an area in northern Myanmar notorious for the industrial-scale manufacturing of synthetic drugs.
The cargo had been procured by a broker based in territory controlled by the United Wa State Army, a militia that for years has been accused of funding itself through drug sales.
But local authorities had not heard of propionyl chloride. It is not one of the 30 precursor chemicals scheduled by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) for use in manufacturing illicit narcotics or psychotropic substances.
Nor had there been any apparent attempt to conceal the cargo though the corrugated shipping container had taken an unusual route