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Belgian pharma executives may face trial over Mexican drug cartel trade

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium’s federal prosecutors are applying to have seven pharma executives put on trial on suspicion of supplying a key ingredient for making crystal meth to a Mexican drug cartel, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The case concerns several deliveries of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, substances commonly found in cough syrup and nasal decongestants but also used to make the highly addictive drug.

“We are asking for them to be referred to court and the decision will be made on April 5,” a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutors said, declining to give the names of the people involved or the companies they work for.

Under Belgian law, a specific court decides whether cases brought by prosecutors go to trial.

A spokesman for Sterop, a small Brussels-based pharmaceutical group, said that it was one of the companies involved in the case but added it had been tricked by intermediaries and had done nothing wrong.

Lawyers for Belgian pharmaceutical wholesaler Andacon said it also was part of the case because of deliveries of pseudoephedrine in tablet form in 2006.

They said that, while pseudoephedrine did not require an export license at the time, the Mexican company the Belgians dealt with did have one, adding they would ask for the case against their client to be dropped.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Ralph Boulton