Man who mass produced ‘street valium’ is jailed for four and a half years

A man who was involved in turning an industrial unit into a drugs factory capable of mass producing pills worth hundreds of thousands of pounds has been jailed for four and a half years.

Derek Dragsnes, 49, a labourer, from Glasgow, ran the unit in the village of Salsburgh, North Lanarkshire.

He was sentenced at the High Court in Livingston on Monday after pleading guilty to being concerned in the supply of etizolam, known as street valium, at a hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh last month, the Crown Office said.

Prosecutors said that a lengthy and detailed police search of the premises on Springfield Road in the village uncovered pill-manufacturing equipment spread out over six rooms.

One room contained a pill press machine capable of producing 171,000 tablets per hour while in another room, officers seized 53.3 kilos of white powder containing etizolam.

This quantity alone would have produced more than 300,000 tablets with an estimated street value of £165,600.

Elsewhere, they uncovered 8.1 kilos of blue powder containing etizolam, which could yield 50,700 tablets worth an estimated £25,350, while three other rooms appeared to have been used for the mixing and preparation of the pills.

The court heard that a total of 177,731 tablets of five different designs containing etizolam with an estimated street value of £88,800 were also recovered during the police search.

David Green, Procurator Fiscal for Homicide and Major Crime, highlighted the role prosecutors and partners played in securing a conviction in the case and removing a significant quantity of drugs from the black market.

He said: “This was a co-ordinated effort to detect significant quantities of illegal and harmful drugs.

“This individual is now serving a lengthy prison sentence. The Crown, working with the police, painstakingly built a case to disrupt a network of drug supply.

“With each case of this kind, we can help reduce the harm that these drugs inflict on Scotland’s communities.

“We are targeting all people who threaten communities across Scotland, not only drug manufacturers but also those who direct their movements.

“With each case of this kind, we can help reduce the harm these drugs inflict on those communities.”

In addition to the tablets containing etizolam, a total of 3,476 tablets of similar appearance to the etizolam tablets and stamped with similar designs, some of which bore the mark “valium” on one side were also recovered and analysed.

Prosecutors said that these tablets did not contain controlled drugs but were clearly designed to be sold as such to unsuspecting buyers.

Dragsnes’s scheme was uncovered in October 2021 when police officers arrived at the premises with a search warrant.

They forced entry into the unit, and prosecutors said it was immediately clear that the property was being used as an etizolam lab on a commercial scale.

Further searches of the property, and analysis of the tablets, were then carried out over a period of 16 days.

Dragsnes was later apprehended at his Glasgow home by police officers with a search warrant.

They found three money-counting machines, bank deposit bags, £8,000 in cash in £50 notes and a cardboard box containing a large quantity of mixed notes which was later counted and came to £104,270.