Unmasked: the Briton accused of supplying drugs to US death row

In an anonymous west London office, Michael Savage confronts Mehdi Alavi – the 'wholesaler' linked with a grisly trade

At first glance, there appears to be nothing out of the ordinary about the small shop front for a driving school, located on a grey industrial strip in Acton, west London.

But after weeks of investigation, the unremarkable offices of Elgone Driving Academy, on Horn Lane, can be exposed as the home of another company, one accused of exporting a cocktail of British-made drugs to the US for use in executions.

The Independent revealed yesterday that the three drugs used in the lethal injection process in Arizona had been shipped to the American state by the small business in London.

An invoice, retrieved from US court documents, reveals that the company facing these allegations is Dream Pharma Limited, run from the Acton property by the man listed in company accounts as its director, Mehdi Alavi. He described his job as "wholesaler".

The invoice indicates that on 28 September 2010, Dream Pharma charged the Arizona Department of Corrections £4,528.25 for the supplies of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The chemicals were dispatched to Carson McWilliams, the warden of the Arizona State Prison Complex.

Sodium thiopental is used to render the inmate unconscious. Pancuronium bromide is then administered to cause paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Potassium chloride is then given in a high dose to stop the heart, causing a massive heart attack. (Supply of these drugs was not illegal at the time.)

Confronted by The Independent yesterday, Mr Alavi, 50, said he did not wish to comment about any of the allegations he faced. "It does not matter what I do, I am not even going to comment on anything," he said. When presented with the Dream Pharma invoice, he declined to comment on whether he had supplied the drugs.

Just a short drive from the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, the curtains were drawn at Mr Alavi's large home in the leafy village of Hampton, in Richmond-upon-Thames. Neighbours were unaware of the nature of Mr Alavi's business interests. One said the entrepreneur was friendly but private.

The latest accounts for Dream Pharma Limited, filed in January 2010, show it had an annual turnover of £844,229. Mr Alavi was listed as the director and main shareholder. It made a net profit of around £95,000 during the year.

US states have had to look abroad for supplies of the drugs because domestic manufacturers have been unable to source the necessary raw materials. This combination of drugs has already been used to kill one prisoner in the state: Jeffrey Landrigan, a convicted murderer, was put to death in October.

Emails secured under the Freedom of Information Act also show that Arizona agreed to supply its neighbouring state, California, with the same drugs. Some British nationals are facing the death penalty in California. Dream Pharma is not thought to have made the drugs. Instead, it is alleged that it acted as a middle man by purchasing them from British manufacturers and selling them on to the US. The only British supplier of sodium thiopental, the Reading-based Archimedes Pharma, has always denied shipping the drug to US states.

The Independent has learnt that potassium chloride supplied to Arizona under the Dream Pharma invoice originated from Hameln pharmaceuticals, based in Gloucester. The firm immediately contacted all its suppliers when it learnt its product, designed to help patients with a potassium deficiency, could have been used in the lethal injection process. It has now tightened its supply guidelines to ensure it does not happen again.

"This is misuse of our product," said its managing director, Stephen Watkin. "It is primarily designed for saving and improving lives. We are one of five suppliers of this product in the UK and our absolute first concern is the safety of our medicines and our patients."

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, tightened the rules on the export of sodium thiopental when suspicions emerged it had been supplied to the US by a British firm for use in the lethal injection process. It can no longer be exported for that use.

However, no such restrictions exist for the export of pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. A spokeswoman for the Department for Business said: "No action is currently being considered against Dream Pharma because it has not broken any laws in selling the chemicals to the US."

Campaigners urged Mr Cable to take urgent action last night. Clive Stafford Smith, head of the Reprieve charity which opposes the death penalty, said that pharmaceutical firms also had to do more to ensure their products did not end up being used in executions.

"It is not sufficient that a business should avoid being irredeemably evil. Rather, it should be ethical," he said. "Recently, we have all learned to despise bankers and their bonuses. Yet when we criticise venal corporations, we tend to forget to demand more than minimally reprehensible behaviour."

The spokeswoman from the Department for Business said that the Government was taking note of the export of the drugs. "Vince Cable has already made clear his personal and the Government's moral opposition to the death penalty. He has already taken decisive action by placing a control order on the export of sodium thiopental and the department is considering a request to place controls on two other pharmaceuticals that are currently used in the execution process in the US."

... and what alavi is accused of selling

Sodium thiopental

A fast-working anaesthetic often used in veterinary operations. It is the first drug injected into a prisoner, bringing about unconsciousness in seconds.

Pancuronium bromide

The next drug administered to the inmate, causing paralysis. Recommended in the protocol for euthanasia in some European countries.

Potassium chloride

Often given to patients suffering from potassium deficiencies in small amounts. Causes cardiac arrest and death when administered at the end of the execution process.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick