TRAFFICKING in heroin, TRADITION of organized CRIME

CF2R – Traffic in heroin, ancestral tradition of the crime…
TRAFFICKING in heroin, TRADITION of organized CRIME

Overall, drug trafficking is divided between: cannabis, which affects the greatest number of consumers. ATS (Amphétamine Type Stimulants), mainly methamphetamine, amphetamines and ecstasy; cocaine; and finally the products known as opioids. The heroin, which is derived from the opium poppy (in summary: poppy-opium-morphine-heroin) after chemical treatment is the drug that generates the most profits for traffickers of the criminal world. It is worth noting that the opiate products can be consumed in different ways: smoked, inhaled, swallowed, or injected. This traffic that is very old remains today the value of transnational organized crime.

Genesis of the traffic

Traditionally, the poppy was mainly grown in the far East. It was popular in the dens of Imperial China and French Indochina. The so-called zone of the ‘Golden Triangle’ (ex-Burma, Thailand, Laos or Myanmar) has even become at a time the first production area of poppies from which opium and heroin is pulled.

From the late 1930s, the French have been very active in the opium trade. When the popularization of heroin, they were even in the centre of the traffic of this amazing product in the United States: this is what has been called the French Connection.It was dismantled in the mid-1970s. However, the hex mobsters were competed at the time by the American Cosa Nostra. This Italian-American mafia was then resumed with its Sicilian cousin who had experienced a resurgence of activities following the liberation of Sicily by U.S. forces in 1943. A man was at the heart of this case: the famous Lucky Luciano. He managed to unify various mafia and criminal bands that they manage to internationalize the large-scale heroin trafficking. These two sectors used a transit point for heroin from far East: Turkey, where the local Mafia led by the Babas (grandfathers) have much in common with their Italian counterparts.

During the Viet Nam war, American criminal groups directly purchased the goods in Southeast Asia and shipped it them to the United States by military flights. The traffickers then used many ploys to escape the various controls. Therefore, Franck Lucas, a gangster from Harlem, has used coffins of soldiers killed in combat to import large quantities of heroin. Finally, the CIA also purchased the drug to anti-Communist armed groups. The company Air America, then headed secretly by Langley, is particularly illustrated at the time in this illegal traffic.

Years later, Nigerian criminal organizations have taken the relay, snas however pass the Turkey. On the other hand, they always provided in the Golden Triangle and the subject countries were the same: Western Europe and North America. The most famous of the suppliers of the time was Chang Chi – fu – alias Khun Sa – nicknamed the « King of opium ».

Since the beginning of the 2000s, the Afghanistan has largely supplanted the Golden Triangle as a supplier of heroin by creating what is called the « Golden Crescent ». Today, 123 000 hectares of poppy on the 195 000 the planet lie in Afghanistan. The areas cultivated in the world increased by 5% in one year and there is no reason that this trend will reverse soon.

The opening of the borders to the East after the collapse of the Soviet bloc involves a new actor: transnational criminal organizations (OCT) issues in Eastern Europe. The routes of trafficking drugs to Western Europe have so greatly diversified and many new Slavic consumers arrived on the market, boosting considerably the production. One of the godfathers of the best-known and most active crime in drug trafficking syndicate is Semion Mogilevich.

More surprising, the Latin America in general, and the Colombia and Mexico in particular, have embarked on the poppy cultivation and heroin trafficking has thus compete one more widespread cocaine. Indeed, the heroine is much more cost-effective because it sells ten times more expensive than the cocaine on the streets of the cities of the North American continent. The benefit is therefore much more juicy for traffickers. As a result, 60% of this heroin in the United States today comes or goes through Latin America!

In Europe except the Portugal and the Netherlands which are transit countries, the gram of pure heroin (known as ‘white’) is trading between 27 and 110 euros! As the product is usually cut by becoming « Brown » heroin, which includes more than 10% of ‘blanche’, consumers pay this much death product cheaper. However, the price ranges remain that guidance, the costs may vary depending on the quantities imported and « accidents of course » encountered. The place of sale is also fundamental. Thus between the Turkey and Western Europe, the price of heroin is multiplied almost tenfold.

According to the UN, the global production of opium in 2010 would have been 4 860 tonnes against 6 900 tonnes in 2009. This significant drop is explained in large part by a disease that would have been Afghan cultures. However, this decrease should be of short duration and the experts expect a significant increase in 2011.

Nothing that the heroin trade would generate some 68 billion dollars, including about one-quarter goes to producers (of those who cultivate poppy until those who transform it into heroin). That said, trafficking in drugs is severely punished. This goes up to the death penalty, which is applied to this charge in Iran, Singapore, China, the Japan, etc. However, the authorities fight with difficulty the traffic of drugs in general. The reason is that this activity concerns a wide range of occupations ranging from agriculture through chemical industry, import and export, logistics, transportation, inventory management, marketing, distribution and massive laundering of the profits generated by this true underground economy. She made millions of men and women. Suddenly stop this clandestine market (totally Utopian assumption) would plunge entire regions, or even countries, in the greatest misery. Unprecedented riots burst then in many places, especially in the deprived suburbs of world megacities. Therefore, policy-makers remain very careful so as to not cause these disorders with unpredictable consequences!

Segmentation of heroin traffic

While in the past, transnational criminal organizations ensured all of the monitoring of traffic in heroin from production to distribution, there was for years a segmentation of the market. This is due to the importance of loads to assume given the large quantities of drugs and money now be treated.

Farmers who grow poppies receive only a small portion of profits (2 to 5%). However, this culture remains significantly more profitable than the substitution products proposed by the authorities. One of the problems lies in the fact that this monoculture often practiced in areas originally wooded or fragile, causes a rapid impoverishment of the soil. In addition, the use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, to increase performance, causes about real ecological catastrophes. The transformation of poppy into heroin also requires the use of very harmful chemicals that are released into the wild. The profits made by farmers-producers are directly re-injected into the local economy without needing to be bleached given the weakness of the amounts committed at the outset. Nevertheless, this money enables you to develop a more prosperous local life, which characterizes the producing regions of opium by the ease of the people residing there. Examples of this state of fact are legion in Afghanistan and the countries of the Golden Triangle.

With a few exceptions, the first stage of the phase of chemical extraction (opium is transformed into morphine base) is made outside the places of culture, sometimes in a neighbouring country. Moreover, the value of the goods increases whenever it crosses a border. Indeed, the OCT which reserved tasks transform and transporting drugs – because they are the most profitable – must literally ‘buy trail’ that drugs borrowed from criminal or insurgent bands that are rampant in the region. These ensure the « protection » of the convoys taking « taxes » of passage. In addition, the OCT bribe many officials, especially customs or the police, so that they close their eyes to what is happening. All this at a cost! On several occasions, drug convoys that were transiting by the Sahel had problems with groups of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who found that the sum was allocated to them to pass these caravans to the somewhat unusual loading was not large enough!

Finally, there’s the distribution. The OCT bring drugs in quantity in the areas concerned and the store in different locations kept secret and placed under guard. Local criminal networks come to buy small quantities of drugs that they then arrange to distribute, on the ground, to consumers. Of infinite precautions are taken to ensure that police services, who are generally familiar enough these offenders of lesser importance, cannot go back to suppliers. Indeed, it is for safety reasons that the OCT do not directly sell to the public. Also called « ants traffic » retail also obeys strict rules with its places of intermediate storage and resellers to the sly which are protected by members of criminal gangs. The profits from these sales are re-injected directly in the legal economy, as is the case at the outset, when the production. This underground economy makes live whole neighborhoods that have become the « territories » of criminal groups. The wars between bands are triggered when one of them attempts to encroach on a neighbouring territory. The Brazilian favelas are a good illustration of this phenomenon is found in a somewhat less visible way, in the suburbs of Western cities.

On the other hand, the OCT use very sophisticated techniques to launder the large amounts of money that they have accumulated. This influx of capital into the legal economy would be even at the origin of many financial bubbles that could bring to fruition a global economic catastrophe while the situation is already heavily degraded. Finally, adverse effects on consumers are well known: addiction, violence, death by over-consumption, AIDS caused by the use of contaminated needles, etc.

Money laundering dirty

The laundering of dirty money is a term that dates of Al Capone. The latter had invested in 1928, part of his criminal profits in a chain of laundries Sanitary Cleaning Shops. Today, the usual circuits, consisting of casinos, bars, restaurants, shops, jewelry stores, real estate civil societies, etc. no longer enough to absorb the enormous amounts of money illegally earned. The OCT is therefore paid traders services graduates of the most prestigious schools so that they engage in complex financial arrangements that often pass through various tax havens. To do this, they need complicity purchased at great expense within the banking, funds transfer companies (which are today overwhelmingly electronically but payments by cash insured by carriers still exist), exchange offices, etc.

A novelty: in this time of international monetary crisis, it seems that there is more than doubtful purchases of precious materials: gold, silver, diamond, etc. All this is very expensive so that half of the selling price of a dose of drugs is dedicated to laundering of the money paid!

The drug routes from

The roads of the drug are relatively traditional. If they use sometimes the way air, the most used – because the more practical – remains the Seaway. In 2009, only 2% of the 420 million of containers that have traveled around the world could be inspected. Seaports are therefore extremely sensitive to monitor points.


South American cocaine joined Europe either directly or by making a hook by the West or South Africa.

For heroin, which is based on the Golden Triangle passes mainly by Communist China, via the province of Yunnan, to reach the United States by crossing the Pacific ocean. China is also a large consumer of this drug with 2.3 million heroin users.

A second stream joined the Europe by the the Silk Road (Central Asia), by the Balkan route (Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Balkans or to a lesser extent by the Greece) to the North and East, South Africa. Part of the route passes through the Near East.

With regard to the production of the Golden Crescent, traffickers mostly borrow of the Silk Road, the Balkan route but also that of the Middle East. A small portion passes also through Africa, in particular through the Kenya and Tanzania, and then by the Sahel or Egypt. New fact, significant amounts of Afghan heroin were found in China, countries which seems to do more to settle only that produced in the Golden Triangle. The same phenomenon was found for the Asia-Pacific region and Australia particularly.

Countries suppliers of opium and heroin

The Afghanistan

In 2010, in spite of the decrease in opium production evoked more before (4 860 tons against 6 900 in 2009), Afghanistan remains by far the world’s leading producer with 74% of the market shares compared to 87% in 2009. 80 to 90% of the heroin consumed in Western Europe comes from Afghanistan.

Poppy production areas that are home to 123 000 hectares are mainly located in the South of the country, particularly in the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Farah, Nimroz and Uzurgan, which are under the control of the taliban. The latter shall levy a tax on production. 48 laboratories processing opium into heroin were discovered in 2010. The Afghanistan is the only country to possess such facilities in the region, other countries merely be transit zones. According to the United Nations, there would be 300 to 500 laboratories on afghan soil.

In 2009, they are 365 tonnes of Afghan heroin that would have been sent abroad: 160 via Pakistan, 115 via the Iran and the rest by the Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. To ensure the security of payments, traffickers rely on the system of the hawala that prevents the identification of issuers of funds. Of transfer orders are given mainly from Helmand province followed by the Herat. Dubai is the main destination, before the Pakistani cities of Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi. Besides, it appears that representatives of the global underworld appreciate Pakistani cities to carry out stays tourist and this, despite the latent insecurity that prevails in the country…

If the Taliban use drug trafficking to finance their fight to live the populations they keep under their thumb ($ 155 million), it is of many warlords who support the regime of president Hamid Karzaï. Since 2001, purely criminal gangs developed in Kabul and in the country where they are engaged in many activities, including illicit trafficking, loan-sharking, fraud, corruption, black market, flights with violence, vicious kidnappings, etc. Anyway, the drug problem is unavoidable in the country, opium is the first source of income estimated at 35% of GDP. The UN estimates that opium globally reported 2.2 billion dollars a year from Afghan traffickers. Even in 2000, when the Taliban had prohibited farmers from cultivating poppies, it actually was to sell stocks that were excessive and thus raise prices. As the political, military and police authorities Afghan, they are all just totally corrupted. Even the NATO forces are not free of errors of assessment.


Myanmar (ex-Burma) is the traditional country of production of opium and the leading supplier for throughout Southeast Asia. It is top of the list (with Somalia) of the most corrupt countries in the world which much facilitates things. The military junta that governs the country (known as the State Peace and Development Council /SPDC[1]) has ensured that it éradiquerait poppy by 2015. She actually seems to encourage this activity that fills the State coffers to height of one to two billion dollars per year. To do this, the Army (Tatmadaw) would directly participate in traffic by ensuring the protection of farmers, the transport and the storage of the goods. At the same time, movements of armed opposition, theUnited Wa State Army (UWSA), the Shan State Army-South (SSA – S), the Shan State Army-North (SSA – N), the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and Chinese criminal groups, including the 14 K triad, have expanded their networks of India to Malaysia to China with the active complicity of the SPDC!

Crops are increasing steadily since 2006. In 2010, covering 38 100 hectares representing an increase of 20% in just one year! Logically, the Burmese opium production increased from 300 to 580 tons. Plantations are mainly concentrated in Shan State, located in the East of the country. The generated profits are directly reinvested in the local economy and foreign banks with branches in Bangkok and Singapore. Incidentally, Myanmar is a major producer of methamphetamine. Policy for the least permissive of Myanmar with regard to drug trafficking is originally problems with its Thai neighbor who could escalate in the future in armed clashes.

The Mexico

If the Mexico is known to be a country of transit for Colombian cocaine, Peruvian, Bolivian and Ecuadorian, local cartels are trying to engage in cultivation of poppy and its conversion into heroin. Thus, 20 000 hectares, located mainly in the region of Sinaloa, already generate 426 tons of opium that can theoretically provide 40 tons of pure heroin. Indeed, one of the characteristics of Mexican heroin is to be more pure than products from the rest of the planet. It is so much appreciated!

Not content to be producers, Mexican cartels, at the top of which are that of Sinaloa and the Zetas have linked contacts with Italian mafias, especially with Cosa Nostra (Sicily) and the ‘ Calabrian Ndrangheta (these two organizations work closely together), to provide in Afghan drug passing through front companies in Turkey. Although no evidence in was made to date, it is likely that the turco-Kurds mafias are stakeholders in this traffic destined for the North American market.

Other producing countries

The other main producers of opium are Laos (with 3 000 hectares of plantations and 18 tons of opium supplied in 2010), Thailand (289 hectares of plantations producing five tonnes of opium), the India and Pakistan.

The total surface area of crops is estimated at more than 10 000 hectares. The worrying thing is the fact that these scopes tend to increase from year to year. Thus, 2010 would have experienced an overall increase of 30% and 75% for the Southeast Asia alone!

According to the United Nations, the number of consumers of products opiates in the world would be relatively stable. It would be between 12 and 21 million, with 12 million to 14 million of heroin. These are mainly located in North America – where consumers turn more and more to produce opiate drugs to make illegal use – in the far East and in Eastern and Western Europe. Despite the high prices, Africa also begins to have its own heroin. It must be said that the black continent provides many smugglers, and even whole networks, mainly based in Nigeria and Ghana. So, it seems logical that a small portion of the drug is consumed directly on-site. The France would count 190 000 regular consumers of heroin behind Great Britain (350 000) and Italy (216 000). All this traffic would have earned $ 68 billion to the criminal organizations, including 60 billion for the only Afghanistan. The big winners of this traffic of death are Turkish, Chinese, Italian, Nigerian, Mexican, OCT East former and national criminal gangs that ensure the distribution of the drug directly on the ground. This traffic is therefore a safe value that could still be expanded in the future.
• [1] It changed its name in March 2011 following the appointment of a new « democratic Government ».


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