National / Crime & Legal

'Breaking Bad'? Shikoku professor allegedly instructed students to produce MDMA

Kyodo, JIJI, AFP-JIJI

A pharmaceutical science professor at a university in Shikoku was referred to prosecutors Tuesday for allegedly instructing his students to produce the synthetic drug MDMA without a permit, the university said Tuesday, in an echo of hit TV series “Breaking Bad.”

Tatsunori Iwamura, 61, a professor at the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Matsuyama University in Ehime Prefecture, admitted to the allegation, telling investigators that he did it in order to help his students’ “learning.” He also acknowledged that he knew it was illegal.

According to the university, Iwamura instructed an associate professor and two then-students to produce MDMA in class between 2011 and 2013, despite him not being licensed to produce the drug for academic purposes.

Then, between 2016 and 2017, Iwamura directed the associate professor and two other people, who were also students at the time, to also produce the drug, which the professor took into his possession.

The regional drug enforcement authority sent investigative papers on Iwamura to prosecutors, as well as on the assistant professor and four former students who were involved in the production of MDMA under his instruction.

The MDMA they produced has not been found, but a trace of another drug was discovered in his laboratory, according to the sources.

MDMA is often a constituent ingredient in the recreational drug commonly known as ecstasy and molly.

“We sincerely apologize for causing major concern to students and their parents,” said Tatsuya Mizogami, president of the university.

He also said the university will consider taking measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again and that it will take disciplinary action against Iwamura and the assistant professor in accordance with the outcome of the investigation.

The investigation started following a tipoff from an outsider. The drug enforcement officers at the health ministry’s regional bureau searched Iwamura’s home and lab, and also questioned the professor from January.

Based on the narcotics control law, which Iwamura and the others allegedly violated, a researcher must obtain a license issued by the prefectural government hosting the research lab to make narcotics for academic research.

According to the sources, Iwamura had obtained a license from a prefecture other than Ehime, but it had expired.

The associate professor thought Iwamura had the license, while the former students did not know that such a license was necessary, according to the university.

Iwamura has been conducting research on what are called dangerous drugs in Japan, defined as those containing chemical agents that can cause hallucinations or have a stimulant effect, according to the sources.

It was unclear if there were any other similarities between the case of Iwamura and that of Walter White, the fictitious hero of “Breaking Bad.” White, played by Bryan Cranston, was a former chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer who starts manufacturing crystal methamphetamine to pay for his treatment and provide for his family — sometimes with the help of a former pupil.