NEW YORK – Five foreigners were charged in the United States on Wednesday with plotting to smuggle 100 kilograms of highly potent methamphetamine that was produced in North Korea.
The men were arrested in Thailand in a sting operation in September and brought to New York on Tuesday night. All pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges on Wednesday before a judge ordered them held without bail until their next court date on Dec. 5.
Two defendants were members of a Hong Kong-based criminal organization that marketed meth produced in North Korea, U.S. authorities said. The others – two citizens of Great Britain and a resident of Thailand – agreed to store and transport the drugs, they said.
The suppliers agreed to provide 100 kilograms to confidential sources working with the Drug Enforcement Administration who claimed there was a ready market for it in New York City, according to court papers. One of the defendants bragged that the organization was the only one able to get meth from North Korea after pressure by the United States prompted a government crackdown on production there.
The United States in the past has accused North Korea of trafficking meth. The defendant claimed to have stockpiled 1 ton of meth because of the diplomatic tensions.
The case demonstrates “the emergence of North Korea as a significant source of methamphetamine in the global drug trade,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement.