By steve peacock [email protected]
A COUPLE have been arrested on suspicion of importing a powerful drug linked to a secretive religion, following a police raid on a Dartington home.
Officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Investigation Team headed up the raid which seized what is believed to be a quantity of ayahuasca — a liquid which contains the powerful hallucinogenic dimethyltryptamine, also known as DMT, a designated Class A drug in this country.
Police believe the drug was brought into this country from Brazil where it is used as a ‘sacrament’ in the Santo Daime church – a blend of Christianity and South American and African religions.
The church was founded in South America in the 1930s, but has spread to the USA and Europe where worshippers are believed to meet secretly, often at each other’s homes.
Det Sgt Stuart Gilroy, who led the Dartington raid, said: “As far as we can tell there has only been one other successful prosecution for the drug in this country and that was in another part of UK.”
He described the drug as a “psychotropic hallucinogenic” used by members of the religion “to get in touch with their inner selves”.
He said that it is believed the drug is used as a sacrament in the same way wine is used in Christian ceremonies.
He added: “It is too early to say if further investigations need to be carried out or other people need to be interviewed.”
Four officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Investigation team and another five from the local Tactical Aid Group were involved in the raid which took place at 8.10pm on Wednesday.
Police said a 48-year-old man of UK origin and a 45-year-old female Japanese national were arrested.
The man has claimed to be a senior member of the Santo Daime religion.
Both were questioned at Torquay Police Station before being released on bail to return for further questioning while officers carry out further enquiries.
The drug comes in the form of a brown liquid.
Police have refused to say where they are keeping the drug until it can be analysed.
However it is being stored in special bio hazard bags.
Det Sgt Gilroy explained: “At the moment we don’t know how potent it is.”
Ayahuasca is a concoction prepared from a specific South American vine mixed with leaves of various shrubs containing DMT.
The hallucinogenic brew was first described academically back in the 1950s by a Harvard scientist.
Apparently, while none of the ingredients causes any psychedelic effect on its own the combination causes a powerful effect.
According to some reports the religion of Santo Daime – which means ‘holy give me’ – has surfaced in London, Devon and Cornwall as well as Northern Ireland, Wales and Yorkshire, and the number of worshippers is said to be in the hundreds.
The ‘church’ was born in the 1930s out of the experiences of a Brazilian rubber-tapper named Raimundo Irineu Serra, or Mestre (Master) Irineu, as followers call him.
In 1930 he was given his first taste of ayahuasca by medicine men and supposedly spent eight solitary days and nights in the rainforest, experiencing a series of visions and receiving instructions from the Virgin Mary.