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The Unearthing of the global drug trafficking networks

The Unearthing of the global drug trafficking networks Several countries around the globe have waged war against global drugs trafficking networks. Most of them have the most severe punishments for drug dealing as a part of their criminal codes. It includes life imprisonment as well as death/capital punishment. On the contrary, the production, smuggling, and consumption of drugs are increasing exponentially. According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – World Drug Report 2022, in 2020, an estimated 284 million people (more people than the population of 190 odd countries) worldwide aged 15–64 had used a drug within the last 12 months. It corresponds to approximately 1 in every 18 or 5.6% of people in that age group and represents a 26% increase from 2010 when the estimated number of people who used drugs was 226 million and the prevalence was 5%. Seizure data suggest that trafficking is expanding to other regions outside the two main markets, North America and Europe, with increased levels of trafficking in Africa and Asia. The map highlights the significant individual Cocaine seizures in Asia and Africa in 2020-2021 (UNDOC: World Drug Report 2022). It is evident that these two are emerging as the most prominent Cocaine markets and drug network transit regions in the world. The region of South Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran is called the “drug capital of the world“. According to UNODC, Afghanistan alone accounted for 84% of the world’s opium supply from 2015 to 2020, outperforming Myanmar and Laos. The major producers of drugs lie in the Golden Crescent (Iran, Pakistan & Afghanistan) and Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos & Vietnam), and they drive the drug trafficking in the world.  Drug trafficking routes result from several facets like geographic proximity, logistics, profit, the economy & corruption in the country, and risk margins. This investigative report by Ij-Reportika examines the three most significant trafficking routes in the world:  The Northern Route, the Balkan Route, and the Southern Route. The Northern Route After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the anarchy in the former Soviet republics played a significant role in the expansion of the drug market. The northern drug-trafficking route, which originates in Afghanistan, usually passes through Central Asia and the former Soviet Union to connect with the vast market in Western Europe.   According to the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, drugs smuggled through the Northern Route have reported increased seizures in 2022. Tajikistan recorded a 52% rise in drug seizures during the first half of 2022, with its anti-narcotics chief expressing that trafficking had increased since the Taliban took power.  Similarly, in Kyrgyzstan, about six tons of illicit drugs were intercepted in the first six months of 2022, 60% more than in the same period in 2021. Ceaseless trafficking from Afghanistan has also been under the scanner in Russia, the target country of the Northern Route. According to official statistics, Russia has more than 448,100 regular drug users and addicts, and among young Russians, the lifetime prevalence of illicit drug use is up to 40%. Russia has one of the biggest drug cartels of the world. The Northern Route has three branches: Northeast, Central and the Northwest It is the most used of the three branches of the Northern Route and runs from Afghanistan to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and then Russia. This route is gradually gaining prominence in the drug trafficking syndicate, it goes from Afghanistan to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and then Russia. It is the least used passage and runs from Afghanistan to Turkmenistan. The Balkan Route The second is the Balkan route which has attracted drug syndicates the most. Started in 1980, today it is the world’s largest heroin trafficking route with 58% share. The Balkan route runs through the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria from Southeast Europe to the Western European market, with an annual market value of approximately $20 billion. Following are some of the findings of the “EU Drug Markets Report 2022“: Around 1 million seizures were reported in 2020 in the European Union, with cannabis products being the most often seized. The largest increases, expressed in percentage terms, observed in the number of seizures between 2010 and 2020 were for MDMA (+129 %) and methamphetamine (+107 %), while the number of herbal cannabis seizures moderately increased (+19 %). In 2020, EU Member States reported 86,000 seizures of cannabis resin amounting to 584 tonnes (464 tonnes in 2019) and 2,40,000 seizures of herbal cannabis amounting to 155 tonnes (130 tonnes in 2019). Additionally, Turkey reported 8,300 seizures of cannabis resin amounting to 37.5 tonnes and 46,900 seizures of herbal cannabis amounting to 56.3 tonnes. Drug supply offences remain at higher levels than in 2010 for all drugs except heroin. Most of this increase was due to the increased activity on the Balkan Route post the COVID19 pandemic. Balkan Route is the main driver of drugs in EU and it takes three different branches to do so : Northern, Western & Southern. The Northern Branch crosses the Eastern Balkans, Bulgaria & Romania and then heads north into Western & Central Europe. Through the western branch, the drug passes through the Western Balkans through North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina & Croatia before reaching the European market. The southern branch passes through Greece and then Italy to enter the Schengen area of ​​Europe. Many smugglers try to circumvent the Balkan route by smuggling to the global market through Africa. Iran is invariably the first stop for 31% of opium traffic on the Balkan Route. The Southern Route The Southern Route offers significant advantages over the other major smuggling routes since most of it is seaborne (shipping).  It supplies narcotics to most countries globally, starting from Pakistan and Iran, using the Makran coast to enter the Arabian Peninsula, UAE, Kuwait, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Its route also goes north from the Red Sea to enter the markets of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The UAE is a noteworthy smuggling country in the Middle East and the Gulf. The traffickers commonly use the free trade junction of Sharjah Port and Dubai’s Mina Rashid & Jebel Ali Ports. They use ships from Pakistan to transport drug shipments to the Gulf, which are out of radar range. The next significant region of the southern route is South Asia. India is a hub of business and a lucrative market in this region. India is a significant producer of acetic anhydride (AA) which is a chemical…

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