By PIERRE THOMAS, JACK DATE, JOSH MARGOLIN and AARON KATERSKY
North Korea may be pushing a highly potent form of methamphetamine into the United States, a development that came to light in an indictment unsealed today in New York.
Five foreign nationals arrested in Thailand were charged with being part of an Asia-based syndicate that plotted to smuggle meth produced in North Korea to New York. Court records indicate that the suppliers agreed to sell 100 kilograms of North Korean meth -- at $60,000 a kilogram -- to a drug trafficker who was actually working with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
One of the defendants bragged that his organization was the only one that could procure meth from North Korea after a government crackdown. "The North Korean government already burned all the labs," court records quoted the defendant as saying. "Only our labs are not closed. To show Americans that they are not selling it anymore, they burned it. Then they transfer to another base."
He said his group had a stockpile of more than a ton of meth, the purity of which was at "Breaking Bad" levels of 99 percent.
A federal official briefed on the case told ABC News that evidence over the years had suggested that North Korean meth -- considered to be extremely pure -- typically found its way to China, where it was then sold. The Chinese government, while not open about the issue, has cracked down on the pipeline.
The indictment released today stemmed from a larger investigation, which led to the arrest in September of former Army sniper Joseph Hunter and four others. Hunter, nicknamed "Rambo," was accused of recruiting the four former soldiers from the U.S. and Europe to murder a DEA agent and the agent's informant.
Prosecutors in New York said the planned double murder was part of what the defendants believed was a larger scheme to import large volumes of cocaine into the U.S.
The investigation is ongoing and is expected to yield additional arrests in the coming weeks.