Underworld wholesaler jailed for dealing GBL

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The Independent Online

An underworld pharmaceutical wholesaler became the first person to be jailed for dealing in the deadly party drug GBL today.

David Wain, 48, sold the industrial solvent Gamma Butryolactone (GBL) to young clubbers as a recreational drug.

The clear liquid is used to clean alloy wheels and remove graffiti but when ingested in tiny doses it can give a social high and increased sex drive.

Experts warned that it is extremely addictive and the smallest overdose can kill users or leave them in a coma.

It became a class C controlled substance in December last year in the wake of a public outcry when a series of deaths were linked to the drug.

Wain ran chemical supply company Sourceachem from his one-bedroom council flat in Hayes, west London, and a garage at his elderly mother's home.

He was jailed for 12 years at Reading Crown Court after being convicted of a raft of drug offences, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The conviction brought to an end a remarkable career in which Wain exploited grey areas around the legislation of some pharmaceuticals.

The trained accountant was first arrested over claims he was selling methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, in 2006.

He was not prosecuted and investigators from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) looked on as he moved into selling drugs that could be used to bulk up cocaine.

In 2008, Wain was arrested again and warned that his actions put him at risk of prosecution as large sums of cash were found at his home.

But he continued to take advantage of a loophole in the law to supply more than 17 tonnes of analgesics, including benzocaine and lidocaine.

In September last year, Wain was arrested again and charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs and other offences.

Wain was accused of conspiring with drug gangs operating in Bournemouth, London, Sheffield, Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow.

Investigators found Wain had banked almost £400,000 between 2008 and September 2009 but he could not name any legitimate clients.

Officials found he did not keep any names or addresses for his bulk customers, using nicknames or initials instead.

While on bail and waiting to go on trial, he diversified again into selling large quantities of GBL.

Police found he reacted to the move to outlaw the drug by asking customers to sign a disclosure saying they would not drink it.

At one point he even contacted the Home Office by email to query exactly how the law was changing.

Meanwhile, Wain increased the price of his GBL from £30 to £40 per 500ml while locating a bulk supplier in China to cut his costs.

This meant he paid just 60p a kilo, rather than £20, and a 100kg shipment was seized by police at Stansted Airport.

But other supplies got through as police found a 25 kilo jerry can and 500ml containers marked "not for human consumption" at his flat.

Investigators discovered Wain continued to sell to one young addict, Londoner Andrew McDonald, even after his mother begged him to stop.

Mr McDonald fell into a coma after using the drug and spent several weeks at St Thomas' Hospital, in central London.

In a disturbing twist, police also found Wain supplied chloroform, with one buyer asking for it to be sent in discreet packaging so his wife would not know.

Another asked to buy a litre of the chemical, which can be lethal in small quantities, but only if Wain could supply the antidote.

One senior investigator said Wain was "willfully blind" as he "tap-danced" around existing laws to stay beyond the law.

He said it was almost impossible to put a figure on how valuable his cutting agents were to drug gangs as they inflated their profits.

The investigator said: "If you cut it one-to-one, it has added hundreds of millions of pounds, but inevitably they are cutting it five or six times.

"We see how low the purity is on the street. We could not even put a figure on it, you could just keep adding noughts."

The investigator added: "Wain was adept at spotting opportunities and exploiting them when perhaps legislation was not as tight as it might have been.

"As soon as GBL became illegal, he responded by upping his price and stocking up on it as well.

"He was very well aware of the circumstances around the legislation of GBL and his responsibilities with the sale of white powder analgesics.

"He had good reason to know how attractive they were and how they were used by organised crime gangs dealing in class A drugs."

Wain was convicted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs, assisting offences by supplying cutting agents, acquiring criminal property, importing, and possessing and supplying the class C drug GBL at a hearing last month.

Andrew Penhale, of the CPS, said: "David Wain sold massive quantities of cutting agents, including benzocaine, lidocaine, paracetamol and caffeine.

"These are legal chemical products, with legitimate applications in the chemical market.

"However, for the defendant, who operated his chemical business from his mother's garage, the onward sale of these chemicals enabled drug dealers to increase hugely their profits through mixing them with illegal drugs.

"He also provided GBL and, despite being asked to stop supplying this drug by the mother of one of the users he sold it to, he continued to do so, knowing full well its effect.

He added: "An investigation into Wain's activities in 2006 resulted in him being warned about his involvement with drug dealers.

"He chose to ignore those warnings and continued dealing in the same way, thereby proving that he knew what he was doing.

"This case sends a strong message to facilitators that they are not beyond the reach of the law."

Trevor Symes, of Soca, said: "David Wain helped the illegal drugs trade make hundreds of millions of pounds of profit.

"There is no doubt that the quantity of cutting agents he was dealing would have had an impact on the availability and purity of cocaine on the streets of the UK and brought the price down to a level which made it accessible to more users.

"He showed a complete lack of conscience about the harm he caused, and the harm he enabled others to cause through his criminal business.

"Anyone else out there who thinks supplying the illegal drug trade with chemicals is a safe and profitable activity should start worrying."