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China/USA. Fentanyl crisis: Is China a major source of illegal drugs?

Amid tension between China and the US over trade, there's also friction over another issue - the illegal trade in synthetic drugs. (BBC, UK, 24.09.2018)

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-45564744

Belgien. Cocaine smuggling is corrupting Antwerp politics, says mayor 

Bart De Wever blames Dutch drug bosses for tenfold rise in drug finds at Belgian port

The scale of cocaine smuggling at the port of Antwerp – through which half of Europe’s supply of the drug reportedly passes – is so vast that corruption of local politics is inevitable, the city’s mayor has said.

Bart De Wever, who has been mayor since 2013, said the enormous amount of cash flooding in because of drug smuggling at Europe’s second biggest port has permeated the Belgian city. (The Guardian, UK, 03.09.2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/03/cocaine-smuggling-is-corrupting-antwerp-politics-says-mayor

Kolumbien. The battle over Colombia's coca fields (Video)

Despite the 2016 peace deal in Colombia, the country's cocaine trade is still flourishing.

Some blame the government for concentrating too hard on peace, others say that by going clean the Farc rebels have left a vacuum in the trade they once ruled.

Katy Watson visited Colombia's coca fields to hear from the people growing the crop, as well as those trying to stamp it out. (BBC, 19.02.2018, Video, 03:02)

http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-latin-america-43815159/the-battle-over-colombia-s-coca-fields

Illegale Märkte im Darknet: Der Kiffer ist König

Illegale Märkte im Darknet arbeiten verblüffend erfolgreich mit Händlerbewertungen, Moderatoren und Treuhandsystem – auch ohne bürgerliches Gesetz im Rücken. Kann der legale Online-Handel daraus lernen?

Christian Buck, Wolfgang Stieler

Technology Review (Auszug in: Heise online, 13.07.2018)

https://www.heise.de/tr/artikel/Der-Kiffer-ist-Koenig-4093890.html

Darknet markets ecosystem – Lifetimes and reasons for closure of over 100 global darknet markets offering drugs, sorted by date (Poster)

Summary

Darknet markets — also known as cryptomarkets — provide a largely anonymous platform for trading in a range of illicit goods and services. It is estimated that around two thirds of the offers on darknet markets are drug-related. Drug sales on these markets, although modest when compared to the overall retail drug market, are significant and appear to be expanding.  EU-based suppliers are important players in the darknet ecosystem, the evolution of which is shown in this timeline. (EMCDDA, Europol, Lissabon, April 2018)

http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/posters/2018/darknet-markets-ecosystem_en

Belgien. A Murdered Journalist's Last Investigation · Going Bananas: Flanders Transformed into Hub for International Cocaine Trafficking

When he was murdered by an unknown assassin earlier this year, Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak was part of an international team looking into foreign drug smugglers suspected of laundering money in his country.

Kuciak and his fiancée were shot and killed on Feb. 21. He was collaborating with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Investigative Reporting Project Italy, and the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism, which have all contributed to the present investigation.

In the wake of his death, the team has continued reporting, uncovering more about the criminal group and how it operated.

The investigation reveals an international ring of drug traffickers with ties to the Italian mafia. Based in Belgium, with operations in the Netherlands, it could count on suppliers from Costa Rica and Colombia and secret large caches of cocaine in fruit shipments from Latin America to Western Europe.

A major Belgian law enforcement operation named Raak (the Dutch word for “strike”) took down part of the network — only to see its mastermind murdered before he could be brought to justice.

Its remaining parts, spread across the world, have continued to function despite the Belgian police action. And even in Belgium, cocaine traffickers were quick to resume their work. (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), 20.07.2018)

https://www.occrp.org/en/amurderedjournalistslastinvestigation/going-bananas-flanders-transformed-into-hub-for-international-cocaine-trafficking

Kolumbien. Rebel groups fight over coca-growing region in Colombia

The governor of a province in north-eastern Colombia has declared a state of emergency over fighting between rival rebel groups.

William Villamizar, governor of Norte de Santander, said the measure was necessary to assist people displaced by the clashes.

He said about 1,000 families had fled the fighting and 4,000 children were unable to go to school.

The EPL and the ELN are fighting for control of a coca-growing region. (BBC, 17.04.2018)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-43791760

Mosambik. How WhatsApp has helped heroin become Mozambique’s second biggest export

As many as 40 tonnes of heroin could be passing through Mozambique every year, making it the country's second biggest export, in a trade that is boosted by the use of mobile phone apps, writes Mozambique analyst Joseph Hanlon. (BBC, 09.07.2018)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-44726227

UK. Thousands of children potentially lured through social media into 'county lines' drugs dealing

Thousands of children could be being lured through social media sites such as Instagram into selling drugs in seaside towns, the police have warned as they secured their first modern slavery conviction against those responsible.

A complex web of more than 900 "county lines" have been discovered across the UK, where organised crime groups based in urban areas use violence and intimidation to force young and vulnerable people to sell drugs remotely in rural or seaside areas. (The Telegraph, UK, 13.04.2018)

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/13/thousands-children-potentially-lured-social-media-county-lines/

Sales and Advertising Channels of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS): Internet, Social Networks, and Smartphone Apps.

Miliano C, Margiani G, Fattore L, De Luca MA.

Brain Sci. 2018 Jun 29;8(7). pii: E123. doi: 10.3390/brainsci8070123. Review.

http://www.mdpi.com/2076-3425/8/7/123

Will growth in cryptomarket drug buying increase the harms of illicit drugs?.

Aldridge, J., Stevens, A., and Barratt, M. J. (2018)

Addiction, 113: 789–796. doi: 10.1111/add.13899.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/add.13899

Kanada. Canada to Fight Laundering of Drug Money through Casinos 

British Columbia is going to crack down on large-scale transnational money laundering in its casinos that is tied to the opioid trade.

„Money laundering isn’t a victimless crime,” said Attorney General David Eby on Wednesday. “It’s linked to the opioid crisis, and deaths on our streets.”

The announcement came after an independent report from Peter German, a former Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner, showed the extent to which casinos are being used to launder drug money.

At a news conference on Wednesday, German said it is hard to put a number on how much has been laundered in the past years but suggested a minimum of CA$100 million (US$75 million), and added it could be much higher. (occrp.org, 28.06.2018)

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/8271-canada-to-fight-laundering-of-drug-money-through-casinos

The Dynamic Environment of Crypto Markets: The Lifespan of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and Vendors Selling NPS.

Wadsworth E, Drummond C, Deluca P.

Brain Sci. 2018 Mar 16;8(3). pii: E46. doi: 10.3390/brainsci8030046.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5870364/

Offline constraints in online drug marketplaces: An exploratory analysis of a cryptomarket trade network

Norbutas, Lukas

International Journal of Drug Policy , Volume 56 , 92 - 100 

https://www.ijdp.org/article/S0955-3959(18)30086-0/fulltext

Zur globalen Ökonomie digitaler Drogenmärkte

Meropi Tzanetakis

Technology Review, TR 4/17, Dezember 2017

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323430078_Zur_globalen_Okonomie_von_digitalen_Drogenmarkten

WHO. Vertrag über Kampf gegen illegalen Tabakhandel tritt in Kraft

Der illegale Handel mit Zigaretten und anderen Tabakprodukten soll künftig konsequenter bekämpft werden. 40 Länder haben einen Vertrag ratifiziert, der am 25. September in Kraft tritt, wie die Weltgesundheitsorganisation (WHO) heute berichtete. (aerzteblatt.de, 28.06.2018)

https://www.aerzteblatt.de/nachrichten/96122/Vertrag-ueber-Kampf-gegen-illegalen-Tabakhandel-tritt-in-Kraft

Spanien. Inside La Línea, the Spanish town in the frontline against drug trafficking

Violence and hashish-carrying speedboats have surged since Spain’s 2008 economic crisis boosted the town’s smuggling gangs. (Teh Guardian, UK, 04.04.2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/04/spain-la-linea-drug-trafficking-gibraltar-hashish

UK. Organised crime group mixed potentially lethal drug fentanyl and posted it around the world 

Three men have admitted running a dark web business selling the potentially lethal drugs fentanyl and carfentanyl to customers across the UK and worldwide.

Jake Levene, 22, Lee Childs, 45, and Mandy Christopher Lowther, 21, mixed the drugs with bulking agents and then posted them to customers throughout the UK as well as the US, Germany, Norway, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Canada, France, Singapore, Holland and Spain. (NCA – National Crime Agency, UK, 29.05.2018)

http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/news/1367-organised-crime-group-mixed-potentially-lethal-drug-fentanyl-and-posted-it-around-the-world

The War on Drugs Breeds Crafty Traffickers

Politicians often escalate drug war rhetoric to show voters that they are doing something. But it is rare to ignore generations of lessons as President Trump did earlier this month when he announced his support for the execution of drug traffickers.

This idea is insane. But the war on drugs has never made any sense to begin with.

Executing a few individual smugglers will do little to stop others because there is no high command of the international drug trade to target, no generals who can order a coordinated surrender of farmers, traffickers, money launderers, dealers or users. The drug trade is diffuse and can span thousands of miles from producer to consumer. People enter the drug economy for all sorts of reasons — poverty, greed, addiction — and because they believe they will get away with it. Most people do. The death penalty only hurts the small portion of people who are caught (often themselves minorities and low-level mules). (New York Times, 26.03.2018)

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/opinion/war-on-drugs-trafficking.html

Afghanistan. Taliban commander orders closure of opium labs in towns and cities 

Recording suggests movement fears local discontent as US airstrikes target facilities in built-up areas

A Taliban commander in the Afghan province of Helmand has ordered all drug labs to be moved out of the urban areas the insurgency controls as US airstrikes targeting the facilities are killing a rising number of civilians, according to a recorded conversation obtained by the Guardian. (The Guardian, UK, 28.05.2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/28/taliban-commander-orders-closure-of-opium-labs-in-towns-and-cities

Technology. Blackberry modified to 'help drug cartels'

The chief executive of a company that created highly-secure smartphones allegedly used by some of the world's most notorious criminals has been indicted.

Canadian-based Phantom Secure made "tens of millions of dollars" selling the modified Blackberry devices for use by the likes of the Sinaloa Cartel, investigators said.

The charges marked the first time US authorities have targeted a company for knowingly making encrypted technology for criminals.

The Department of Justice arrested Vincent Ramos in Seattle last week. He was indicted on Thursday along with four associates. (BBC, 16.03.2018)

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43425333

Crypto-Market Enforcement - New Strategy and Tactics

Alois Afilipoaie and Patrick Shortis

GDPO Situation Analysis, Global Drug Policy Observatory und Swansea University, June 2018. 

http://www.swansea.ac.uk/media/GDPOSitAnalysisJune2018AfilipoaieShortis.pdf

Albanien. Police Seize Largest Cocaine Haul in Albanian History

Albanian police said Wednesday that they seized 613 kilograms of cocaine that arrived from Colombia in a shipment of bananas. (OCCRP - The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 02.03.2018)

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/7722-police-seize-largest-cocaine-haul-in-albanian-history

Süd-Ost-Asien. ‘Alarming levels’ of methamphetamine trafficking in Asia’s Mekong, UN warns

Organized crime groups in Asia’s Mekong region have intensified the production and trafficking of highly-addictive methamphetamine, extending the illegal trade into countries such as Australia, Japan and New Zealand, senior drug policy leaders warned on Monday at a United Nations-backed regional conference. (UN News, 21.05.2018)

https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/05/1010262

Niederlande. Netherlands becoming a narco-state, warn Dutch police

Officers say many victims do not report incidents and organised gangs have a free rein

The Netherlands is starting to resemble a narco-state with the police unable to combat the emergence of a parallel criminal economy, a report from the Dutch police association has warned. (The Guardian, 20.02.2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/20/netherlands-becoming-a-narco-state-warn-dutch-police

Afghanistan. Last year's record opium production in Afghanistan threatens sustainable development, latest survey reveals

In 2017, opium cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record high with an estimated 328,000 hectares, up 63 per cent compared with 201,000 hectares in 2016.

According to the latest survey report released today by UNODC, last year's record levels of production has led to unprecedented levels of potential heroin production. From the 2017 opium harvest, some 550-900 tons of heroin of export quality (purity between 50 and 70 per cent) can be produced. (UNODC, 21.05.2018)

https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2018/May/last-years-record-opium-production-in-afghanistan-threatens-sustainable-development--latest-survey-reveals.html

Mexiko. Inside the Mexican towns that produce America’s heroin

MEXICO CITY — Journalists in Mexico, foreign and domestic, tend to keep drug cartels at arm's length. Narco bosses like to stay out of the news. Several Mexican reporters have been killed by drug gangs for trying to expose organized crime. Firsthand reporting from inside the Mexican underworld is rare. (Washington Post, 17.02.2018)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/17/inside-the-mexican-towns-that-produce-americas-heroin

Venezuela. Drug Trafficking Within the Venezuelan Regime: The ‘Cartel of the Suns’

In Latin America, criminal entrepreneurs in the form of cartels, have traditionally run drug trafficking. In Venezuela, it is managed from within government, and if Nicolás Maduro wins another term in office, Venezuela’s position in the global cocaine business will solidify. (Insight Crime, Venezuela Investigative Unit, 17.05.2018)

https://www.insightcrime.org/investigations/drug-trafficking-venezuelan-regime-cartel-of-the-sun/

Irland. Dublin's dead men walking: 29 on death list in brutal gangland war

In the most violent gangland feud in Irish criminal history they are Dublin’s dead men walking.

As one international crime gang headed up by a Dublin drug smuggler seeks to annihilate its rival in the Irish capital, at least 29 men have been told they are on death lists. (The Guardian, UK, 19.02.2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/19/dublins-dead-men-walking-29-on-death-list-in-brutal-gangland-war

Arzneimittelfälschungsschutz betrifft rund 700 Millionen Packungen pro Jahr

Bonn – Auf die Bedeutung des kommenden Fälschungsschutzes für Arzneimittel hat heute das Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte (BfArM) hingewiesen. „Arzneimittelfälschungen können für Patienten gravierende gesundheitliche Folgen haben. Die Fälscher nehmen in Kauf, dass schwerkranke Patienten möglicherweise mit verfälschten oder unwirksamen Substanzen behandelt werden“, sagte der BfArM-Präsident Karl Broich heute bei einer Tagung zum Thema. (aerzteblatt.de, 08.05.2018)

https://www.aerzteblatt.de/nachrichten/95028/Arzneimittelfaelschungsschutz-betrifft-rund-700-Millionen-Packungen-pro-Jahr

USA/Niederlande. DEA, Dutch law enforcement continue attack on dark web drug sales

International day of action includes knock and talks with suspected dark web drug buyers; Information produced from Hansa takedown.

THE HAGUE – The United States Drug Enforcement Administration and Dutch law enforcement officials today announced sustained action against drug trafficking on the dark web, following last summer’s significant market takedowns of AlphaBay and takeover and subsequent takedown of the Hansa market. DEA continued to partner with the National Police of the Netherlands following the July takedown in an ongoing effort to identify individuals who purchase drugs on the dark web and to further disrupt dangerous drug trafficking. Further examination of the Hansa Market data revealed illicit drug purchase information identifying U.S. and Dutch individuals, resulting in numerous face-to-face doorstep visits by police (so-called “knock and talks”) to suspected opioid buyers throughout the U.S. and the Netherlands. Future enforcement action such as search warrants, arrests, and seizures could come as a result of intelligence gathered from the knock and talks. (DEA, 15.02.2018)

https://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2018/hq021518.shtml

Wie der Drogenhandel im Darknet funktioniert (Video)

Eine Recherche des Tages Anzeigers zeigt, wie einfach Drogen im Netz zu erwerben sind. (Tagesanzeiger, Schweiz, 2018, 07:26)

https://podcast.newsnetz.tv/podcast/news/335416h.mp4