Wednesday, 17 March 2021

What WAS he planning? Director of research at biotech firm, 37, is charged after 'buying 800 castor bean seeds to extract the deadly toxin ricin'

 The director of research at a Massachusetts biotech firm has been accused searching online for deadly poisons and purchasing 800 castor bean seeds so he could extract the toxin ricin from them, federal prosecutors say. 

Dr. Ishtiaq Ali Saaem, 37, was charged on Tuesday with obstruction of justice after he allegedly lied to FBI agents when they were investigating why he was trying to acquire the deadly toxin.   

Authorities say Saaem had ordered 100 packets of castor beans, which each contained eight seeds, online.

Ricin is a deadly poison that can be extracted from the seeds, or beans, of a castor oil plant. 

Purchasing the seeds to grow a castor oil plant is not illegal but extracting ricin from the beans is.   

When agents questioned Saaem over his purchase, he allegedly told them he only intended to plant the beans as a decorative plant for his apartment. 

Ricin is a deadly poison that can be extracted from the seeds, or beans, of a castor oil plant. Purchasing the seeds (above) to grow a castor oil plant is not illegal but extracting ricin from the beans is

Ricin is a deadly poison that can be extracted from the seeds, or beans, of a castor oil plant. Purchasing the seeds (above) to grow a castor oil plant is not illegal but extracting ricin from the beans is

He said he accidentally purchased 100 packets instead of one. 

After speaking to the agents, Saaem allegedly researched tasteless poisons that could be made at home.  

When he was questioned again, Saaem repeated his claim that he only intended to purchase castor beans to plant for decoration.

Authorities, however, say he purchased them specifically to extract ricin. 

Agents say Saaem has a PhD. in biomedical engineering and worked as the director of advanced research at a biotechnology firm based in Massachusetts at the time. 

He has been charged with one count of obstruction of justice, which can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.   

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