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Trade Secrets: Inside Africa's illicit drug markets

Drug markets in Eastern and Southern Africa are growing rapidly. Resilient and quick to evolve, their impact is felt in cities, towns and rural villages in almost every corner of the region. Few escape the toxic effects of transnational organized crime linked to drugs. The harms are immense. The drug trade fuels violent inter-gang competition, murder and state corruption. It drives the spread of transmissible diseases. It destroys communities. The United Nations estimates that by 2030, the number of people who use drugs in Africa will have nearly doubled. Despite this, it remains a largely silent crisis. Through the lives of drug users and streetwise dealers, activists and survivors, this film tells the story of Africa’s drug crisis. (Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, Genf, 12.02.2023, Video, 15:10)


Afghanistan. The Taliban, terrorism and transnational organized crime

The international community’s withdrawal of support for Afghanistan rests on the false hope that a Taliban-led state will not pose any major threat to the world. Yet the assumption that the Taliban has changed for the better is misguided. Indeed, the Taliban is now even more dangerous, interconnected with criminal actors and deeply embroiled in illicit economic activities. These threats have transnational implications. (Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, Genf, 20.02.2023)


Kap Verde. Drogenumschlagplatz Kap Verde »Selbst die Fischverkäuferinnen dealen mit Kokain« 

Fünf US-Dollar kostet ein halbes Gramm Kokain auf den Kapverden, das Land liegt auf der Schmuggelroute von Südamerika nach Europa. Besuch auf einer Insel, wo der Stoff so viel kostet wie ein Mittagessen. (Spiegel online, 26.02.2023)


Land-System Changes and Migration Amidst the Opium Poppy Collapse in the Southern Highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico (2016-2020). 

Tamariz G, Zimmerer KS, Hulquist C. 

Hum Ecol Interdiscip J. 2023 Feb 18:1-17. doi: 10.1007/s10745-022-00388-4. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36844033; PMCID: PMC9938696.


Europa/Belgien. Visit of Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner, to the Port of Antwerp-Bruges: joint press conference

On 7 February 2023, Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, accompanied by Annelies Verlinden, Belgian Minister for the Interior, Institutional Reforms and Democratic Renewal, visited the Port of Antwerp, following the continued rise in the quantity of cocaine seized at the port. The European Commission is committed to tackling serious and organised crime and illegal drugs trafficking, as outlined in the  

EU Security Union Strategy, the EU Strategy to Tackle Organised crime and the EU Drugs Strategy 2021-2025. Antwerp is one of the main ports of entry and transit of cocaine in Europe. Only in 2022, Belgian authorities seized 110 tons of cocaine, almost all in the port of Antwerp. (EMCDDA, Lissabon, 07.02.2023)


The opium surge in Southeast Asia’s ‘Golden Triangle’

A revival of opium production in the Golden Triangle comes on top of a booming synthetic drug industry. (Al Jazeera, Katar, 18.02.2023)


Afrika. A powder storm: The cocaine markets of East and southern Africa

There is a transition occurring in the production and distribution of cocaine.

Despite the extensive population containment and control measures put into place across the globe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the flow of cocaine powder from Latin America to global markets appears to have been largely uninterrupted. This is despite the fact that measures to significantly reduce supply have been put in place by the governments of Colombia – a country that is still the primary cultivator of coca – and the United States, the primary progenitor of and ally in the war on drugs. (globalinitiative.net,  , 15.12.2022)


Outrage over girl’s ‘drug war’ death as Belgium’s cocaine haul breaks records

Girl, 11, shot dead in Antwerp believed to be victim of rival drug gangs as cocaine seizures hit record high. (The Guardian, UK, 10.01.2023)


Europa. Mexican cartels bringing drug expertise to the EU, new report finds

Cocaine and methamphetamine linked to Mexican criminal groups emerging in EU, while rising violence and appearance of fentanyl are potential future threats. (Europol, Den Haag/NL, 14.12.2022)


Complexities and conveniences in the international drug trade: the involvement of Mexican criminal actors in the EU drug market - A joint Europol and US Drug Enforcement Administration analysis report. 

(…) In recent years, seizures of methamphetamine and cocaine linked to Mexican criminal actors have emerged as a prominent feature of the EU drug landscape. Mexican criminal actors and EU-based criminal networks have been working together to traffic both of these illicit drug types from Latin America to the EU.

This report delves into the activities of these criminals and their methods. Drug trafficking operations benefit from a number of different actors, such as brokers, cooks, envoys, intermediaries and money laundering service providers. Examples of the methods used by the criminals include the corruption of officials in the public and private sectors and the exploitation of legal business structures. The report also provides an outlook on potential threats that may develop in the future. (Europol, Den Haag/NL, 14.12.2022)


Re: Ecstasy für Europa – Einsatz gegen niederländische Drogenlabore (Video)

In der niederländischen Provinz wird in illegalen Drogenlaboren Ecstasy und Crystal Meth für den europäischen Markt hergestellt. Bauern werden bestochen oder erpresst, ihre Scheunen an die Mafia zu vermieten. Die hochgiftigen Abfälle landen in der Natur. Polizisten, Bürgermeister, Förster und Bauernbeauftragte sind im Dauereinsatz gegen das große Drogengeschäft. (Arte TV, Sendung vom 25.11.2022, Video, 32:15)


Belgien. How Antwerp became the cocaine gateway to Europe (Video)

How Antwerp became the cocaine gateway to Europe

The port of Antwerp in Belgium is largely seen as the capital of cocaine trafficking in Europe.

Corruption and violence are now on the rise and the drug is widely available on the streets. (BBC, UK, 15.12.2022, Video, 04:51)


How a Cocaine-Smuggling Cartel Infiltrated the World’s Biggest Shipping Company

As MSC grew into a dominant force in global trade, it also became a prime drug-trafficking conduit for Balkan gangs. (Bloomberg, USA, 16.12.2022)


Syrien. Is the Syrian Regime the World’s Biggest Drug Dealer?

Experts say Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is a narco state that is pumping out millions of speed pills and is now a bigger drug producer than the Mexican cartels.  (Vice, 14.12.2022)


UK. County lines: ‘I was 11 and in a drugs gang - why did nobody save me?’

Every week, children criss-cross the UK on buses and trains, ferrying drugs as part of county lines operations. BBC News spent months with one organisation battling to help children who are in danger, hearing young people's stories of abuse and their families' heartbreak, and learning what it takes for them to break free. Three people tell us their story of county lines. (BBC, UK, 02.12.2022)


Joint EU, UAE Law Enforcement Hit Tito and Dino Clan 

Law enforcement agencies across Europe, in cooperation with their colleagues in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said Monday that they had dismantled a ‘super cartel’, which controlled around one third of the cocaine trade in Europe. (OCCRP - Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, USA, 29.11.2022)


Handel mit Rauschgift nimmt zu - BKA-Vizepräsidentin Martina Link und Bundesdrogenbeauftragter Burkhard Blienert berichten zur Rauschgiftlage

In der Polizeilichen Kriminalstatistik (PKS) wurden im vergangenen Jahr rund 361.000 Rauschgiftdelikte registriert. Damit ging die Gesamtzahl der Delikte um 1,3 Prozent leicht zurück. Allerdings stieg die Zahl der Rauschgift-Handelsdelikte um 2,9 Prozent auf 55.941 Fälle. Das geht aus dem „Bundeslagebild Rauschgiftkriminalität 2021“ hervor, das heute vom Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) und dem Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Sucht und Drogenfragen vorgestellt wurde. (Bundeskriminalamt und Der Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Sucht- und Drogenfragen, 10.11.2022)


EMCDDA. EMCDDA releases new findings on drug markets in the eastern and southern European Neighbourhood Policy regions

The emergence of new drug trafficking routes, the expansion of online markets, and the availability of a broader spectrum of substances, are among the findings highlighted in two new reports published today by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA). Released in the framework of the EU-funded EU4Monitoring Drugs project (EU4MD), the reports provide a picture of the drug market in the eastern and southern European Neighbourhood Policy regions (ENP-East and ENP-South). (EMCDDA, Lissabon 21.11.2022 (News release No 9/2022))


Afghanistan. Can the Taliban detox from Afghanistan's opium economy?

As the world continues to watch heartbreaking scenes from Kabul, many are bracing for the far-reaching ramifications of its fall.

The impact of the Taliban takeover on the global heroin trade is one such concern.

Resin from Afghanistan's opium fields is used to produce the majority of the world's heroin. Some analysts are already predicting that the Taliban will increase its control of Afghanistan's opium trade.

It may seem unlikely, however this could well be one of the few positive results arising from the Taliban's return to power. (ABC-News, 24.08.2021)


Ecuador. Headless bodies and deadly bombs: cartel violence escalates in Ecuador

On Tuesday, President Guillermo Lasso announced a curfew under a new state of emergency in Guayas and Esmeraldas regions. (The Guardian, UK, 02.11.2022)


Combating illicit fentanyl: Will increased Chinese regulation generate a public health crisis in India? 

Wang C, Lassi N. 

Front Public Health. 2022 Oct 14;10:969395. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.969395. PMID: 36311594; PMCID: PMC9614337.


Belgien. Why Belgium is now the cocaine capital of Europe (Video)

With record seizures of cocaine at Belgian ports, the country has become Europe’s cocaine-trafficking capital. As the flow of drugs increases, local authorities are struggling with corruption and violence. (The Economist, UK, 03.11.2022, Video, 14:44)


Mexiko. Methamphetamine Production in Mexico Is Toxic for the Environment

It is over 33 degrees Celsius, and a strong smell of dead animals pollutes the fresh air in the Western Sierra Madre mountain range. Two dead cows lying next to a river have been decomposing for a few days and are bloated with flies.

The cattle ranch they came from is only a couple of kilometers away, in a small, remote area between the states of Sinaloa and Durango. This region, known as the Golden Triangle, was for years home to much of Mexico's illicit cultivation of cannabis and opium poppy, used to make marijuana and heroin. Today, it is the epicenter of synthetic drug production in Mexico, and suffers from the resulting environmental damage. (InsightCrime, USA, 03.11.2022)


Afghanistan. Afghanistan opium cultivation in 2022 up by 32 per cent: UNODC survey 

Vienna, 1 November 2022 – The 2022 opium crop in Afghanistan is the most profitable in years with cultivation up by nearly one-third and prices soaring, even as the country is gripped by cascading humanitarian and economic crises, according to a new research brief from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan – latest findings and emerging threats is the first report on the illicit opium economy since the Taliban, which assumed power in August 2021, banned cultivation of opium poppy and all narcotics in April 2022. This year’s harvest was largely exempted from the decree, and farmers in Afghanistan must now decide on planting opium poppy for next year amid continued uncertainty about how the de facto authorities will enforce the ban. Sowing of the main 2023 opium crop must be done by early November 2022.

“Afghan farmers are trapped in the illicit opiate economy, while seizure events around Afghanistan suggest that opiate trafficking continues unabated,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly upon the survey’s launch. (UNODC, Wien/New York, November 2022)


Hacker Ethics: Learning Lessons from Darknet Marketplaces 

The rise of darknet marketplaces (DNMs) illustrates the systemic failings of drug war enforcement. From the perspective of the hackers behind this technology, they have, in the last decade, marked a new frontier in undermining prohibitionist efforts to restrict the availability of illegal drugs. To be clear, the unregulated free market model these websites represent has little to do with Transform’s vision of legal regulation. Nevertheless, darknet users have undeniably pioneered - deliberately or not - models of harm reduction, which may offer useful lessons as we plot the course into a post-prohibitionist world. (Transform UK, 30.08.2022)


Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s drug trade is booming under Taliban rule

Soon after taking power last August, the Taliban vowed to crack down on narcotics. Fast forward to April of this year, and they seemed to make good on that promise, issuing a decree that unequivocally banned the production and sale of illicit drugs.

Unfortunately, that decree has been inadequately enforced, and Afghanistan’s drug trade is booming under Taliban rule. (Atlantic Council, USA, 24.08.2022)


Afghanistan. The Taliban Vowed to End Afghanistan's Heroin Trade. What Happened Next?

A year on from the Taliban’s takeover, VICE World News looks at what impact the regime has had on global drug supply. (VICE, UK, 10.08.2022)


Europa. Portholes - Exploring the maritime Balkan routes

Despite the prevalence of trade over land, South Eastern Europe (SEE) also contains more than a hundred ports and 12 container terminals, which are important entry and exit points for trade in the Adriatic, Aegean, Black and Ionian Seas, as well as along the Danube. (Global Initiative against transnational organized Crime


Peru. Secret Operations: The Peruvian Charged with Laundering Massive Amounts of Drug Money

For decades, Carlos Sein Atachahua allegedly led a global money laundering empire. Police say his gang’s drugs, sent with logos depicting ancient Peruvian symbols, reached Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta and other criminal groups, while corrupted money-exchange houses around the world were allegedly used to launder profits. (OCCRP - Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 06.07.2022)


‘The PCC are after me’: the drug cartel with Paraguay in its clutches

A Brazilian former prison gang is threatening to turn its neighbour into a narcostate and its deadly tentacles extend much further.UK, 23.06.2022)