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Afrika. UN: Crime and Drugs in West and Central Africa ‘alarming’ 

West Africa is facing increased trafficking in opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine, the profits of which often go to armed terrorist groups, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday. (OCCRP - Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, USA, 21.12.2018)

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/9056-un-crime-and-drugs-in-west-and-central-africa-alarming

Afghanistan: How does the Taliban make money?

(...) The Taliban, the main insurgent group in Afghanistan with an estimated 60,000 fighters, now controls more territory in Afghanistan than at any point since its removal from power by the US-led coalition in 2001.

(...) Maintaining this level of insurgency requires a great deal of funding, from sources both within and outside the country.

So how does the Taliban support itself? (BBC, 22.12.2018)

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-46554097

Connecting the Dots . . . - Human Rights, Illicit Cultivation and Alternative Development

How can we resolve the tensions between current drug control policies and states’ human rights obligations? The international human rights framework clearly establishes that, in the event of conflicts between obligations under the UN Charter and other international agreements, human rights obligations take precedence. As legally regulated cannabis markets start to grow, now is the time to secure a legitimate place for small farmers using alternative development, human rights and fair trade principles. (Transnational Institute (TNI), Niederlande, Oktober 2018)

https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/tni-2018_connecting_the_dots.pdf

Studie Cannabis-Produkte werden immer stärker 

Der THC-Gehalt von Haschisch und Marihuana hat in den letzten Jahren drastisch zugenommen - bei gleichbleibendem Preis. Das birgt erhebliche gesundheitliche Risiken. (Spiegel online, 30.12.2018)

http://www.spiegel.de/gesundheit/diagnose/cannabis-studie-die-potenz-von-haschisch-steigt-und-damit-das-gesundheitsrisiko-a-1245899.html

Europa. Criminal networks involved in the trafficking and exploitation of underage victims in the EU

This report is produced in the framework of the EU Policy Cycle for organised and serious international crime. The Justice and Home Affairs Council defined its priorities for 2018-2021 based on Europol’s Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA), released in March 2017.

Trafficking in human beings (THB) is one of the identified crime priorities of the current EU Policy Cycle 2018-2021.

The aim is to disrupt organised crime groups (OCGs) involved in intra-EU human trafficking and human trafficking from the most prevalent external source countries for the purposes of labour exploitation and sexual exploitation, including those groups using legal business structures to facilitate or disguise their criminal activities. (Europol - European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, DOCUMENT REF No: 1001370, Den Haag, Oktober 2018) 

https://www.europol.europa.eu/publications-documents/criminal-networks-involved-in-trafficking-and-exploitation-of-underage-victims-in-eu

Increasing potency and price of cannabis in Europe, 2006-2016

Tom P. Freeman, Teodora Groshkova, Andrew Cunningham, Roumen Sedefov, Paul Griffiths, Michael T. Lynksey

Addiction, First published: 29 December 2018, doi.org/10.1111/add.14525

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/add.14525

EMCDDA. Captagon: understanding today's illicit market

Summary

Captagon is reported to be a commonly used stimulant in the Middle East. In addition, some recent media reports have linked this drug to perpetrators of terrorist acts in Europe or terrorist groups based in areas of conflict in the Middle East. This report aims to provide an overview of what is known about the captagon phenomenon, and how it may concern Europe, to assist those working in the illicit drugs field who may need to respond to the issue. (EMCDDA,Lissabon,Oktober 2018)

http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/9783/20184976_TDAU18002ENN_PDF.PDF

Paraguay. How Paraguay dumps billions of illicit cigarettes on the global market

On Sep. 25, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products entered into force. According to the WHO, illicit trade refers to “any practice or conduct prohibited by law and which relates to production, shipment, receipt, possession, distribution, sale or purchase, including any practice or conduct intended to facilitate such activity.”

Most research on the illicit tobacco trade so far has focused on the role of transnational tobacco companies. As the WHO Protocol is implemented, far more attention needs to be paid to how the illicit tobacco trade is evolving. (The Conversation, 16.12.2018)

https://theconversation.com/how-paraguay-dumps-billions-of-illicit-cigarettes-on-the-global-market-107679

Malta, A Modern Smugglers’ Hideout

Malta has become a “crossroad of illegal trafficking,” said Col. Giuseppe Campobasso, who heads anti-drug law enforcement for Italy’s financial police in Palermo. His unit is part of the Libeccio International operation of the Guardia di Finanza, collaborating with Spanish, French, Greek and Italian authorities in tackling illegal trafficking at sea.

Malta’s central Mediterranean location makes it prime smuggler territory, but it has other charms for them as well. Shell companies proliferate there. Vessels change names and ownership with ease, swapping national flags from Togo to Tanzania to Belize.

Investigators say the smugglers innovate constantly, scouting new routes and implementing new techniques, from masquerading as fishermen to interspersing legitimate cargo with illegal wares. The trade crosses many borders around the Mediterranean, from the ports of Spain all the way east to the island of Cyprus.

The accused smugglers have one thing in common: connections on Malta. (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Oktober 2018)

https://www.occrp.org/en/thedaphneproject/malta-a-modern-smugglers-hideout

Europa. Recent changes in Europe’s cocaine market: results from an EMCDDA trendspotter study

Summary

Using trendspotter methodology, this report explores signs of increasing availability and consumption of cocaine in Europe, in an effort to increase our understanding of recent changes in the cocaine market. The study investigates the consequences of these developments on acute health harms linked to cocaine and crack use and reviews the current public health responses to problems related to these drugs. (EMCDDA, Lissabon, Dezember 2018, DOI: 10.2810/801683)

http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/rapid-communications/recent-changes-in-europes-cocaine-market_en

USA. Trapped by the ‘Walmart of Heroin’ (Feature)

A Philadelphia neighborhood is the largest open-air narcotics market for heroin on the East Coast. Addicts come from all over, and many never leave. (New York Times, 10.10.2018)

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/10/magazine/kensington-heroin-opioid-philadelphia.html

Europa. New gangs 'Uberise' Europe's cocaine supply and bring more violence 

Rising production from Latin America has led groups from North Africa and the Balkans to change the drug trade, EU agency says. (Guardian, UK, 14.12.2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/14/new-gangs-uberise-europes-cocaine-supply-and-bring-more-violence

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

USA. Drug wholesalers drove fentanyl's deadly rise, study shows -- Cheap, plentiful drug entered wholesale markets following heroin supply shocks

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid implicated in nearly 29,000 overdose deaths in the United States last year, most likely spread because of heroin and prescription pill shortages, and also because it was cheaper for drug wholesalers than heroin, according to a report on illicit US drug markets. (University of California - San Francisco, 05.12.2018)

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181205093801.htm

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

Inside the Mafia-Run Cocaine Network Shattered by European Police

A two-year investigation culminated this week with 90 arrests, splitting wide open a mafia coalition that trafficked drugs to Europe from across the world. Here’s how the clans ran it. (OCCRP - Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, USA, 06.12.2018)

https://www.occrp.org/en/37-ccblog/ccblog/9010-inside-the-mafia-run-cocaine-network-shattered-by-european-police

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

USA. US: Bar Owner ‘Mama Jo,’ 70, Charged With Running Million-Dollar Fencing Ring 

Police in Michigan broke up a long-running fencing operation that allegedly paid heroin addicts to steal goods ranging from guns and liquor to ceiling fans and energy drinks, Detroit’s local media reported Monday. (OCCRP - Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, USA, 04.12.2018)

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/8998-us-bar-owner-mama-jo-70-charged-with-running-million-dollar-fencing-ring

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

USA. Drug wholesalers drove fentanyl's deadly rise, report concludes

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid implicated in nearly 29,000 overdose deaths in the United States last year, most likely spread because of heroin and prescription pill shortages, and also because it was cheaper for drug wholesalers than heroin, according to a report on illicit US drug markets by researchers at UC San Francisco. 

First synthesized in a Belgian lab in 1960, illicitly produced fentanyl has swept through U.S. drug markets in waves, the latest beginning in 2013, and has claimed an extraordinary number of lives. The researchers who wrote the report said having a better understanding of whether fentanyl's deadly spread is being driven by the economic imperatives of suppliers or the tastes of drug users would help policymakers find ways to curb it.

Made entirely in the lab, fentanyl is far more powerful and much cheaper to produce than heroin, which is derived from poppy opium. It is usually sold deceptively—as heroin or brand name prescription drugs like OxyContin and Xanax. The researchers said drug users and street-level dealers, who may also be using the drugs, often don't know whether they are taking or selling drugs adulterated with fentanyl, since it is added to the supply higher up the distribution chain. Therefore, the researchers said, demand from drug users is unlikely to have played a role in its spread. (University of California, San Francisco, 04.12.2018)

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-12-drug-wholesalers-drove-fentanyl-deadly.html

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

Lesotho. Marijuana, mountains and money: How Lesotho is cashing in

Lesotho is aiming to make money from the booming medicinal marijuana industry, but the BBC's Vumani Mkhize says the southern African nation already has an unheralded illicit trade in the drug for recreational use. (BBC, 28.11.2018)

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-46288374

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

DIE KOSTEN DER CANNABIS-PROHIBITION IN DEUTSCHLAND – Eine Studie im Auftrag des Deutschen Hanfverbands

14. November 2018

Prof. Dr. Justus Haucap, Dr. Christiane Kehder, Marc Feist und Jan Slowik

DICE Consult GmbH, Düsseldorf, 2018

https://hanfverband.de/sites/hanfverband.de/files/cannabis_final-141118.pdf

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

Mexiko. Mexico: Drug Trade Flourishes While Criminals Hurt Economy 

While Mexico’s drug traders make over US$31 billion per year, the country’s legitimate economy is taking a toll from being targeted by criminal groups, according to new reports released Monday. (OCCRP - Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, USA, 13.11.2018)

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/8896-mexico-drug-trade-flourishes-while-criminals-hurt-economy

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

UK. Drogen mit Drohnen in Gefängnisse geflogen - Haftstrafen 

Eine Bande soll in England Drogen im Wert von 550.000 Pfund in Gefängnisse geschmuggelt haben. Nun sind mehrere Mitglieder zu Haftstrafen verurteilt worden. (Spiegel online, 26.10.2018)

http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/grossbritannien-drogen-mit-drohnen-in-gefaengnisse-geflogen-haftstrafen-a-1235441.html

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

Mexiko. Neue Rangordnung bei Mexikos Drogenkartellen: Auf "El Chapo" folgt "El Mencho" 

Einst war Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán der mächtigste mexikanische Drogenboss. Nun schickt sich ein einstiger Weggefährte an der Spitze der "Jalisco Nueva Generación" an, seinen Platz einzunehmen. Mit brutalen Mitteln. (Spiegel online, 22.10.2018)

http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/mexiko-drogenkartell-jalisco-nueva-generacion-wird-immer-maechtiger-a-1234441.html