A POWERFUL hallucinogenic drug linked to a religious organisation has been seized in police raids across South Devon for the second time in three months.
Police say they found 54 litres of Ayahuasca, a liquid which contains the powerful hallucinogenic dimethyltryptamine, a designated Class A drug, in a garage in Dartington.
The haul, one of the biggest ever found in the UK, followed a drugs raid on a home at Huxham’s Cross, the same home police raided in August when they seized quantities of the same drug.
A total of four people were arrested in the raids which also took place at homes in Staverton, Harbertonford and Kingskerswell.
Police believe that all four people have links with the Sainte Daime church in which the drug is used as a ‘sacrament’.
A blend of Christianity, South American and African religions, the church was founded in South America in the 1930s but has spread to the US and Europe where worshippers are believed to meet at each other’s homes or in local halls.
A 48-year-old man was arrested at the Huxhams Cross address while three women aged 33, 31 and 37 were arrested following raids on the other addresses in Moreleigh Road, Harbertonford, West Hill Terrace, Kingskerswell and West Park, Staverton.
The women were released on bail pending further inquiries while the man appeared in Torbay Magistrates accused of drug offences.
Police said the raids were carried out as part of Operation Zephyr –– a South West-wide operation targeting organised crime and involving five forces –– Devon and Cornwall, Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Dorse, working closely with the Borders Agency and Revenue and Customs.
DMT originates from South America, comes in the shape of a brown liquid and is prepared from a vine mixed with leaves of various shrubs containing DMT.
The congregation of the Sainte Daime church are believed to use it as part of their ceremonies to allow members to get in touch with their inner selves.
A police spokesman said: “Generally it is a very specialised area of the drugs market and not a street drug.”
But she said police are concerned that it is likely to become more prevalent and said that there had already been one death from the use of the drug which was not linked to the group.
Detective Inspector Andy Bevan said: “DMT is very dangerous which is why it has been graded a Class A drug. As such it is taken very seriously by police and border agencies. We will continue to take strong action against those who are involved in drug related criminality.”
The latest raids took place on Wednesday.
A similar raid took place at Huxhams Cross in August this year when a man and a woman were arrested and a quantity of the drug seized.
Adrian Freeman, 48, of Huxhams Cross, Dartington, appeared before Torbay Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with others with conspiracy to evade the prohibition on DMT between January 1 and November 18.
The case was sent to Plymouth Crown Court to be heard on February 28.
Freeman was remanded on bail on condition of residence at Huxhams Cross and a 10pm to 6am curfew.
He was ordered to surrender his passport before he was to be released from custody, barred from applying for travel documents and ordered not to have contact with five named people