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Indien/Iran/Afghanistan. India seizes $2.7bn of heroin from Afghanistan at port

Heroin production has boomed in Afghanistan in recent years and the country produces most of the world’s supply of the drug. (The Guardian, UK, 21.09.2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/21/india-seizes-27bn-of-heroin-from-afghanistan-at-port

Afghanistan. 'Now We All Grow Poppies': Afghan Farmers Predict Roaring Opium Trade Under the Taliban

Sources in Afghanistan have told IranWire that so far, the Taliban has failed to implement any restrictions on drug trafficking out of the country and the drug trade is now operating more freely than ever before. Farmers in the border regions are laying the groundwork to grow many times more poppies than before when the planting season gets under way next month. 

In response Molavi Shirahmad Ammar, the Taliban's deputy governor in Herat, told IranWire that a document banning the transit and trafficking of narcotics would be issued in the coming days.

Drug trafficking has been a lucrative business in Afghanistan for decades as the world’s main opium-producing country. Refugees in Iran are often arrested and even hanged for having a role in the trade, although they are a million miles from being the main players. (IranWire, 20.09.2021)

https://iranwire.com/en/features/10385

Mexiko. A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation (Video)

Tonight, we begin a three-part look at the production — and devastating effects — of the drug fentanyl. Illicit use of the synthetic opioid painkiller has ravaged the United States, with Mexican drug cartels now seeing huge profits. With the support of the Pulitzer Center, from Sinaloa State, in Mexico, special correspondent Monica Villamizar and videographer Zach Fannin report. (PBS News Hour, USA, 14.09.2021, Video, 08:56)

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/a-secret-look-at-a-mexican-cartels-low-tech-multimillion-dollar-fentanyl-operation

Afghanistan. Back to the future

Over the past weeks, the world has been watching the crisis in Afghanistan rapidly unfold, while commentators are reflecting on what the future may look like. A keen focus on the country’s illicit economies and their potential impacts on Afghanistan’s future political dynamics is now imperative. (Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, 26.08.2021)

https://globalinitiative.net/analysis/afghanistan-future-illicit-economies-corruption/

Indien/Pakistan. Drone airdrops heroin near India-Pakistan international bord 

Amritsar. Once again a drone originating from Pak soil dropped heroin near Indo Pak international border in the Amritsar sector. (Times of India, Indien, 10.09.2021)
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/drone-airdrops-heroin-near-india-pakistan-international-border/articleshow/86098335.cms

The illicit trade of cocaine from Latin America to Europe – from oligopolies to free-for-all?

UNODC and EUROPOL, Cocaine Insights 1, UNODC, Vienna, September 2021.

https://www.europol.europa.eu/publications-documents/cocaine-insights-1

Europa. Massive Drug Busts Target Albanian Weed Gangs Supplying Europe

Police have dismantled a drug ring specialising in weed cultivation which trafficked truckloads of the drug from Spain across Europe. VICE, UK, 02.09.2021)

https://www.vice.com/en/article/qj89d3/massive-drug-busts-target-albanian-weed-gangs-supplying-europe

Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, opium is as big a winner as Islamic extremism

After more than 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan, the withdrawal of United States-led forces is causing a humanitarian crisis as the Taliban takes control of the country.

Heroin, morphine, opium, hashish and poppy have mostly benefited the Taliban in recent years, and that likely means destitute Afghans will be dependent on the opium trade for survival. (The Conversation, USA. 01.09.2021)

https://theconversation.com/in-afghanistan-opium-is-as-big-a-winner-as-islamic-extremism-166474

Afghanistan. Afghanistan ‘will not be a country of cultivation of opium anymore’, Taliban insists

A Taliban spokesperson has insisted that Afghanistan will no longer produce drugs, despite currently being the largest illicit opium supplier in the world. (BBC, 18.08.2021)

https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/south-asia/afghanistan-taliban-drug-opium-production-b1904147.html

Afghanistan. The Taliban plans to ban drugs in Afghanistan. That could change the world for the worse

After the Taliban’s opium ban in the early 2000s, a heroin drought in Estonia led underworld chemists to start manufacturing fentanyl. (The Independent, UK, 19.08.2021)

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/taliban-afghanistan-drugs-heroin-ban-b1905589.html

Afghanistan. APRIL 2021 Afghanistan Opium Survey 2020 - Cultivation and Production ‒ Executive Summary

The total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan was estimated at 224,000 hectares (202,000 - 246,000) in 2020, which represents an increase of 37% or 61,000 hectares when compared to 2019. (UNODC, Wien, April 2021)

https://www.unodc.org/documents/crop-monitoring/Afghanistan/20210503_Executive_summary_Opium_Survey_2020_SMALL.pdf

Afghanistan. The Taliban Can't Afford to Stop Producing Heroin – Unless the US Pays Them

“They will want a very good deal to end the production,” a former special forces soldier turned anti-narcotics consultant told VICE World News. “But let’s face it, they’re great negotiators.” (VICE, UK, 20.08.2021)

https://www.vice.com/en/article/7kvjae/the-taliban-cant-afford-to-stop-producing-heroin-unless-the-us-pays-them

Is Afghanistan-made methamphetamine about to flood Europe?

The Taliban has promised to crack down on the drug trade, but if the Afghan economy fails, a crisis could unfold, experts say. (Al Jazeera, 24.08.2021)

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/24/in-europe-fears-of-a-flood-of-afghan-made-methamphetamine-grow

Afghanistan: How much opium is produced and what's the Taliban's record?

The Taliban claims opium poppy cultivation was stopped and the flow of illegal drugs halted when it was last in power in Afghanistan.

But although there was a sharp drop in 2001 - when it was last in control - opium poppy cultivation in Taliban-held areas has risen in subsequent years. (BBC, 25.08.2021)

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-58308494

Afghanistan. Profits and poppy: Afghanistan's illegal drug trade a boon for Taliban

WASHINGTON - The United States spent more than $8 billion over 15 years on efforts to deprive the Taliban of their profits from Afghanistan's opium and heroin trade, from poppy eradication to airstrikes and raids on suspected labs. 

That strategy failed. (…)

Some of those shipments are hurled across the heavily patrolled border to traffickers in Iran with rudimentary catapults, reported David Mansfield, a leading researcher into Afghanistan's illicit drug trade. (Reuters, 16.08.2021)

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/profits-poppy-afghanistans-illegal-drug-trade-boon-taliban-2021-08-16

Afghanistan in the Era of Fentanyl: Considering Potential Economic and Political Impacts of a Collapse in Demand for Afghanistan's Opiates. 

Greenfield, Victoria A., Bryce Pardo, and Jirka Taylor, 

Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2021. 

https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PEA1088-1.html

‘Armed and Dangerous’: Inside the ’Ndrangheta’s Intercontinental Cocaine Pipeline

In the first part of this investigation, we explored how the ’Ndrangheta syndicate moved cocaine across Europe. Now, we examine their pipeline through Latin America and Africa, showing how the highly-connected Giuseppe Romeo moved drugs through corruption-plagued ports to Antwerp, Rotterdam, and beyond. (OCCRP - Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 05.07.2021)

https://www.occrp.org/en/ndrangheta/armed-and-dangerous-inside-the-ndranghetas-intercontinental-cocaine-pipeline

The 'Ndrangheta’s ‘Little Kiss’: Inside an Organized Crime Clan That Moved Cocaine Across Europe

With logistical support from a scion nicknamed “Little Kiss,” the Giorgi-Boviciani clan of the 'Ndrangheta crime group used northwestern Europe as a cocaine and tax-evasion haven. (OCCRP,   , 30.06.2021)

https://www.occrp.org/en/ndrangheta/the-ndranghetas-little-kiss-inside-an-organized-crime-clan-that-moved-cocaine-across-europe

The Forgotten History of European Drug-Dealer Activism 

In a small Dutch city outside of The Netherlands, drug user activists from around the world gathered in 1999 for the fourth annual International Drug Users Day (IDUD) conference. 

As Mat Southwell, a British activist, delivered a presentation, he could “hardly see the audience” he told Talking Drugs, “because everybody was chasing,” or smoking drugs off of foil. The event was like no conference he had ever attended. “There was so much smoke coming up from the audience. You could hardly hear people speak over the rustle of silver foil.”

One of the things that made the event particularly special for Southwell was the involvement of people who supplied drugs, something that he himself would soon be working on back in the United Kingdom. A group of Dutch suppliers called the Hard Drug Dealers Union sponsored the event run by the Dutch National Interest Group of Drug Users (LSD). (Talking Drugs, UK, 30.04.2021)

https://www.talkingdrugs.org/the-forgotten-history-of-european-drug-dealer-activism

Belarus. Illegaler Zigarettenhandel: Für Lukaschenko eine Goldgrube 

Viele Regimekritiker und -kritikerinnen mussten in Nachbarländer fliehen. Von dort aus versuchen sie, Lukaschenkos Einnahmequellen trockenzulegen. Auch Schweizer Firmen spielen dabei eine Rolle. (srf – Schweizerischer Rundfunk, 22.06.2021)

https://www.srf.ch/news/international/geld-fuer-polizistenloehne-illegaler-zigarettenhandel-fuer-lukaschenko-eine-goldgrube

Kolumbien. Colombia coca crop area expanded to 245,000 hectares in 2020 - report

BOGOTA - The area occupied by coca crops in Colombia expanded to 245,000 hectares (605,408 acres) at the end of 2020, and cocaine production capacity rose to 1,010 metric tons a year, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said on Friday. (Reuters, 25.06.2021)

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/colombia-coca-crop-area-expanded-245000-hectares-2020-report-2021-06-26/

Niederlande. “No Story Is Worth as Much as My Life” - Fears Mount Following Attack on Dutch Journalist 

Did “cocaine baron” Ridouan Taghi commission a hit job on Dutch star reporter Peter R. de Vries? The assassination attempt casts new light on the power of drug gangs in the Netherlands. (Spiegel international online, 09.07.2021)

https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/fears-mount-following-attack-on-dutch-journalist-no-story-is-worth-as-much-as-my-life-a-362189b6-03ab-49b7-b9fc-bb28e3e63a93

Spanien. Trafficking victims held as slaves in Spanish cannabis factory supplying UK had no knowledge of Covid pandemic

Eight men and two women were forced to work in filthy conditions in marijuana plantations near Barcelona to supply the drugs to Britain and Holland. (inews, UK, 07.07.2021)

https://inews.co.uk/news/world/trafficking-victims-spain-cannabis-factory-supplying-uk-no-knowledge-covid-1091636?ITO=newsnow

MDMA Gangs Are Literally Polluting Europe 

Drug makers in Belgium and the Netherlands are poisoning nature reserves and damaging wastewater plants as they compete to supply the world with stimulants. (vice.com, 18.06.2021)

https://www.vice.com/en/article/qj83jw/mdma-gangs-are-literally-polluting-europe

Drug Cryptomarkets in the 2020s: Policy, Enforcement, Harm, and Resilience

Martin Horton-Eddison, Patrick Shortis, Judith Aldridge, Fernando Caudevilla

University of Manchester, Policy Brief 16, June 2021

https://www.swansea.ac.uk/media/Drug-Crypto-Markets_FINAL_June_2021.pdf

UK. Drug Science Podcast - #38 - Drug Markets

This week’s episode features British Academy Global Professor Julia Buxton. Her research focuses on illicit drug markets and the impact of counter-narcotics policies on development, gender equality and security. In her career she’s led projects and worked with multiple universities around the world including the Central European University in Budapest. Outside of Europe, she has geographical expertise on Latin America and is a specialist on Venezuela. (Drug Science, UK, 09.06.2021, Podcast, 41:56)

https://www.drugscience.org.uk/podcast/38-drug-markets/

Syrien/Levante. Greek Captagon Bust Leads to a Criminal Gang and the Port at the Heart of Syria’s Booming New Drug Trade

In late 2018, Greek authorities busted a freighter carrying over $100 million worth of cannabis and the speed-like drug Captagon, evidence of a booming Mediterranean drug trade fueled by Syria’s civil war. An investigation into the vessel reveals a network of criminals associated with the shipment — with connections to the Assad family, a gang in Libya, and London-registered shell companies. (OCCRP - Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 17.06.2021) 

https://www.occrp.org/en/investigations/greek-captagon-bust-leads-to-a-criminal-gang-and-the-port-at-the-heart-of-syrias-booming-new-drug-trade

Changing tides - The evolving illicit drug trade in the western Indian Ocean

The islands of the western Indian Ocean have been drastically impacted by illicit drug markets. Mauritius and the Seychelles report some of the highest rates of heroin consumption in the world. Growing volumes of heroin are being trafficked via Madagascar, which also operates as a significant cannabis exporter in the inter-island drugs economy. (globalinitiative.net, Juni 2021)

https://globalinitiative.net/analysis/drug-trade-indian-ocean/

The variable and evolving nature of ‘cuckooing’ as a form of criminal exploitation in street level drug markets. 

Spicer, J., Moyle, L. & Coomber, R. 

Trends Organ Crim 23, 301–323 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-019-09368-5

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12117-019-09368-5

Syrien. ‘A dirty business’: how one drug is turning Syria into a narco-state

Manufacture of Captagon is a growth industry so big it is starting to rival GDP of flatlining economy. (Guardian, UK, 07.05.2021)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/07/drug-captagon-turning-syria-into-narco-state