The Chinese New Year officially began on February 5th, 2019, and ended on February 19th. However, there was an additional reason for the people of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to celebrate last month: they cracked the case of the largest drug-packing factory in China — with a market value of nearly one billion yuan (approximately $150 million USD).
This news, reported by the Office of the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), supports the work of various law enforcement agencies to make anti-drug efforts a top priority to help accomplish the government’s goal to eradicate illicit drugs.
Part of that bust included $30 million in narcotics identified by the Taiwan Coast Guard, using portable chemical analysis technology. Their handheld instruments integrate Raman technology and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy to identify a broad range of unknown chemicals in the field quickly, safely, and confidently. Raman and FTIR are highly specific and reliable identification methods, each with strengths and limitations.
Raman spectroscopy is a technology that enables users to safely analyze explosive materials through sealed translucent containers without disturbing the sample. This capability is particularly important for bomb technicians who want to avoid contact with a sample whenever possible. Chemical Identification analyzers using Raman can recognize thousands of potential explosives including: TATP (triacetone triperoxide), ammonium nitrate, TNT (trinitrotoluene), RDX (cyclonite) and HMTD (hexamethylene triperoxidediamine).
FTIR spectrometers are exceptionally useful for identifying unknown chemicals of a variety of colors. They will not generate energy during the sampling process, which makes it an ideal tool for verifying substances such as: smokeless powders, Pink or Green Detasheet, Semtex, or hundreds of other colored materials. (Since contact is required between the sample and the instrument, extreme caution should be taken when analyzing pressure sensitive substances.)
By integrating both into a single analyzer, operators harness the power of each technology while enabling a broader range of chemical identification.
Last year, the FOCUS TAIWAN news channel reported that the Taiwan Investigation Bureau warned of a sharp rise in the consumption of illegal drugs, urging relevant agencies to tackle the problem and proposing law enforcement cooperation with other countries to combat increased cross-border drug trafficking. The report explained that given Taiwan’s location and its strong distant-sea fishing industry, the island has been increasingly used by international drug rings as a transshipment hub for drug trafficking.
The illegal drug trade is a worldwide issue. Protecting borders is especially difficult, but it is crucial to detect and deter dangerous substances before they reach the public. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) organizations charged with stopping narcotics, new synthetic drugs, and other illicit substances from crossing borders need narcotics identification tools that provide immediate analysis at the port of entry. These handheld Raman/FTIR instruments are becoming the technology of choice for this application because they provide highly accurate results directly at the scene, enabling officers, customs agents, border control, and other personnel to scan substances in a single, definitive test.
In addition, the instrument is also capable of protecting the public from harm from sources other than narcotics by detecting, identifying, and mitigating hazardous materials and explosives. More importantly, advanced detection instruments help keep the agents safe while they accomplish their mission to keep the public safe.
According to the official Taiwan news article, years ago its president explained that “the police, the squad, the army, and the sea patrol were the ‘four kings’ to protect national security.” Now, instead of scepters, these kings use the latest handheld chemical identification instruments to help protect their kingdom.
Editor’s Note: Watch the video on the news page of the Office of the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to see a demonstration of how the handheld analyzer can scan and identify the unknown substance right through the packaging.