"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Man In India Who Is Selling States Illegally Imported Execution Drugs

Harris Pharma in Kolkata, India
This is Harris’s second listed business location,
the location he tells the DEA and Nebraska that
Harris Pharma is based out of.
When states ran out of execution drugs, they started paying tens of thousands of dollars to Chris Harris, a salesman in India with no pharmaceutical background.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts had a problem. In a few days, the state legislature would vote on repealing the death penalty in his state. He needed to convince a few of them that the death penalty in Nebraska was salvageable, that the state’s prior problems with the death penalty were just logistical issues that he, a new governor, could fix.

So, on May 14, he announced that he had found a way for Nebraska to get execution drugs — something that many states have struggled to find.

“The functionality of the death penalty in Nebraska has been a management issue that I have promised to resolve,” Gov. Ricketts said, announcing the purchase a day before the legislature would vote to advance the repeal. “Through the work of [Department of Correctional Services] Director Frakes, the department has purchased the drugs that are necessary to carry out the death penalty in Nebraska in the near future.”

Despite having only 10 men on its death row and no executions in the state for more than 15 years, Rickett’s Department of Correctional Services placed an order to Harris for enough drugs to conduct hundreds of executions. As BuzzFeed News reported this summer, Nebraska did so because Harris said he would sell to the state only if they agreed to buy a “minimum order” of 1,000 vials.

Nebraska sent Harris a check for $54,400.

The state legislature voted to repeal the death penalty anyway, overriding Ricketts’ veto, and Ricketts’ management has led Nebraska to a stand-off with the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Customs over illegally importing the drugs.

Eight thousand miles from the execution chamber at the Nebraska State Penitentiary is Salt Lake City — a planned satellite town in Kolkata, the capital city of India’s West Bengal state. It’s a modern mecca of swanky office complexes, colleges, shopping malls, and restaurants. Here, on the eighth floor of a plush glass building overlooking a lake, is an office where Nebraska’s lethal injection drug supplier says he makes his drugs.

A laminated paper sign stuck on the door of room 818 reads “Harris Pharma - manufacturer and distribution.” The office, with powder-blue walls and a frosted glass facade, is one of 61 spaces on the floor rented out to various companies.

This is the facility in India where a man named Chris Harris, a salesman without a pharmaceutical background, claims his manufacturing and distribution business is based. He has sold thousands of vials of execution drugs for corrections officials in the U.S. who are desperate to find drugs to carry out the death penalty.

An employee who works at the facility, however, said the office is not being used to make drugs.

Saurav Bose, a customer relations officer at the office rental company who has met Harris twice since he started working here a few months ago, said Harris did not manufacture drugs in this rented office.

“He used to sit at home all day long. How did he manage to sell lethal injection drugs to the U.S.?” Pijush Kantibairag wondered aloud, as he sat smoking in his 1,050-square-foot apartment in Kasba, a suburban maze of narrow lanes and ramshackle buildings in southern Kolkata, nearly eight miles away from Harris’s office in Salt Lake City.

Two floors above him is Flat C1, where Harris used to live. Kantibairag and Harris were neighbors. Harris’s flat, however, is now empty and bolted shut. Flat C1, a residential apartment, also is one of the office addresses of Harris Pharma — the company owned by Harris.

This is Harris’s second listed business location — the location he tells the DEA and Nebraska that Harris Pharma is based out of. But he hasn’t lived here in more than two years, both his former neighbor and his landlord told BuzzFeed News.

Harris lived in the apartment with his second wife, Sanjukta Harris, but left the building in 2013 ago without paying seven months’ rent and electricity bills, his landlord, Abhijit Majumder, told BuzzFeed News.

Source: BuzzFeed, October 20, 2015

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