AIRCR Jumps the Shark

The Association of Independent Research Chemical Retailers (AIRCR) is a collection of largely UK based research chemical vendors who have banded together in a stated attempt at creating a self-regulating organization. The motivation apparently was a result of the wide-scale scams and misrepresentation of product that occurred as the easy money of mephedrone sales started to dry up due to government regulation.

A noble goal indeed, as even before this the research chemical scene as a whole was not exactly a shining example of professionalism and restraint. Self-regulating organizations have a strong track record in many fields including finance, law, medicine, and engineering, and can demonstrate the ability of the market to regulate itself without requiring explicit government oversight. They can also quickly shift from self-regulating to self-serving organizations as their structures may encourage monopolistic behavior and cronyism.

AIRCR initially appeared to sit almost precisely between these two extremes. There was no question that after the March 2010 ban of mephedrone in the UK many research chemical vendors scrambled to provide any substitute product at all to the seething masses who had gotten used to the cheap and staggeringly effective drug. Hyperpotent long-lasting toxic stimulants, existing (and now illegal) mephedrone stocks rebranded and sold with nonsense chemical formulas, and simply fake product had created mass disillusionment within many retail customers, and retailers began to panic as they saw sales volumes plummet.

The retail strategy of AIRCR seems to be best outlined by the approach of a group of several UK based websites who are now AIRCR members. Their first mainstream exclusive compound 6-APB (“Benzo Fury”) was based off the structure of the classic MDA. Correctly identifying that the major issues leading to prohibition of mephedrone were indiscriminate doses and widely available cheap product, 6-APB was produced in limited runs and pressed into “pellets” (not pills, which would imply human consumption and not “research” of course). Presumably the hope was that with a more expensive product divided up into an appropriate dose overconsumption would be less of an issue. By having a monopoly on production and controlling supply, the compound could be rationed via economic pressures to those most likely to use it correctly – and more importantly, to those least likely to create unwanted media attention. While less profitable month to month than the wide-scale sales of mephedrone, it would hopefully provide a more consistent cash flow, few competitive pressures, and a longer production run leading to a better structured business model.

For new recreational entheogens with limited reinforcing characteristics this business model, while far from perfect, is a rational approach to the current regulatory environment. Retail levels sales to end users are largely tolerated if media attention and underage use is limited, a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” of the drug world. But with their latest product, AIRCR has succumbed completely to the temptations of monopoly and have fixed a noose about their own neck.

The compound in question is literally trademarked by AIRCR as methiopropamine, presumably to distract from the more conventional nomenclature of methamthetamine. The similarity to the much-demonized methamphetamine is no coincidence, as it can be thought of as methamphetamine where the phenyl group is replaced by a sulfur-containing thiophene group. Typically the replacement of a phenyl with a thiophene in this class of compounds results in increased inhibition of VMAT, which can be correlated with increased reinforcement and addictive effects. Preliminary tests appear to indicate similar qualitative effects to methamphetamine, a shorter duration, slightly lower potency, and more peripheral effects including vasoconstriction and sweating.

It seems almost a foregone conclusion to say that sales of a research chemical with this level of behavioural reinforcement and close structural similarity to one of the most publicly demonized drugs of our time will not end well. Supply controls will likely be insufficient to limit media attention, and these very supply controls are likely to be quickly circumvented as synthesis and precursors will be vigorously investigated by other labs wanting to get in on a fast buck. A shame that the first public attempt at self-regulation in the research chemical industry could fall to temptation so quickly.

Farewell AIRCR, we hardly knew ye.

Afghan Heroin and Supply Side Economics

A diplomatic cable sent in September of 2009 describes a speech given by Executive Director of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, briefing NATO on the results of the 2009 Afghanistan Opium Survey.

On September 18 the Executive Director of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, briefed at NATO Headquarters the results of the 2009 Afghanistan Opium Survey. Opium cultivation trends reported were positive overall and showcased a major decline in opium cultivation in Afghanistan by 22 percent in 2009, the lowest in 15 years. Costa described Afghanistan as having a southern opium problem not an Afghanistan opium problem. The report found that nearly 99 percent of all opium production took place in the south. All other provinces in Afghanistan produced only 1 percent of the country’s total opium in 2009. The UK and U.S. support to Helmand Governor Mangal’s three-pronged “food zone” project was illustrated as a successful initiative promoting licit farming in the South. Costa said the World Food Program should buy wheat at the higher price in Afghanistan instead of Pakistan, as it would have a greater positive impact on the Afghan economy. Eradication mechanisms were reported to have minimal affects and accounted for only 3 percent to 4 percent in cutting opium cultivation.

So how are major players in the heroin market reacting to this decrease in supply? Taking a cue from other monopolistic cartels like De Beers, they have been stockpiling and releasing only partial proceeds of production in order to keep prices high and manage supply shocks like this.

Opium Stocks Remain High

Costa said that Afghanistan has 12,400 tons of opium stocks because it produces more than the world consumes. Costa believes the insurgency is withholding these stocks from the market and treating them like “savings accounts.” He said the stocks pose a serious threat as it could be used to finance the insurgency. Costa encouraged intelligence organizations to keep focus on the storage and movement of Afghanistan’s opium stocks.

And who precisely is benefiting from this intelligent management of heroin and opium stockpiles?

Drug-Taliban Links

Costa responded to Sweden’s question on which parts of the insurgency are gaining the most from narcotics profits by pointing to operations in southern Afghanistan. He said that there was evidence of emerging narco-cartels along Afghanistan’s southern border that are linked to the Taliban. Costa said that the UNODC interviews those who have been recently released by the Taliban for an inside view into insurgency activities. He said many former Taliban detainees said that their sleeping bags were often bags of opium. Costa said the interviews yielded information that many narcotics transactions and transport activities occurred during the night. Costa said there was a grey area between those apart of the insurgency for the ideological aspects and those involved because of the financial gains of the black market narcotics industry. In the north, Costa said there was evidence within the last 12 to 18 months of new narcotics networks by the insurgency. Costa also mentioned that Afghanistan had a political drug cartel, but did not go into details.

Astoundingly, a statement by one of the highest ranking anti-narcotics agents in the world that Afghanistan has a “political drug cartel” barely merits a full sentence. Attempts to convince Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Attorney General Mohammed Isha Aloko of the values of Western narcotic control ideology appear to be falling on deaf ears, as demonstrated by several high profile pardons of those both deeply involved in the heroin trade and connected to high-level government office.

From Cable Reference ID 09USNATO397, 2009-09-18 16:04, Classification CONFIDENTIAL, Origin Mission USNATO.

Effects of LSD on Troops Marching

Rich Remsburg works as an archival image researcher on documentaries for PBS, National Geographic, the History Channel, museum exhibits and independent films. While working on a documentary on the history of biological warfare he came across a clip detailing US Army research in LSD and its effect on troops marching. Transcript:

US Army Chemical Corps
Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland

These film records do not necessarily denote official Army doctrine. They cannot be obtained from the US Signal Corps.

A typical drill seargeant orders his men to fall in. The squad, composed of volunteers for the test, responded like well trained soldiers, immediately and without question. On the drill field the men obeyed his commands accurately and with precision. A second drill seargant assumed command. He put the squad through its paces capably. This man also proved to be an able drill seargant, giving precise commands.

Two hours later, the squad all except the [first] drill seargant are drugged with LSD and again were ordered to fall in. The response was not the same. The squad leader thought it was not necessary for him to dress right. There was much laughter as the group attempted to give expression to inner emotions. This elation was group supported, and an individual who was seperated from the group would show severe disturbance. Notice the volunteer who salutes several times. Five minutes later a severe depression [of the saluting volunteer] convince the medical officers to end his participation in this test.

Response and reaction to the [first] drill seargant who did not receive LSD were as before. But in marching, the drugged squad, although starting fairly well, gave a sluggish and ragged performance. After a few minutes, the men found it difficult to obey orders, and soon, the results were chaotic.

The second drill seargant, who had performed effectively earlier in the day, was now given command of the squad. He too had received LSD and he no longer was an effective leader. When an officer ordered the leader to drill the squad, he responded with “You want a drill? You drill ’em!”. Ordered to leave the field, he refused to go. In answer to a direct question, he said he was capable of drilling the men and was instructed to do so. Minutes later, it was evident that he was unable to carry out his orders, and he was escorted from the field.

We have seen some of the effects of LSD. What effect would it have on a vital operation? Further research is required to give us that answer.

[cut to a Nike Ajax missile battery readying for launch, typically placed around population centers and strategic locations such as long-range bomber bases, nuclear plants, and ICBM sites in the late 1950s]

A far better explanation for why LSD is currently Schedule I under the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances than I have heard to date.

Casablanca’s Cafe Culture

A diplomatic cable was sent in May 2008 from Casablanca describing external, internal, and underground sources of wealth in Morocco.

Most Casablancans acknowledge that at least some of Casablanca’s wealth comes from illicit activities such as drug-trafficking and money laundering. In the words of [name removed], “We have dirty money. The problem is we don’t know how much.” Statistics do not exist to quantify how much of Casablanca’s wealth can be traced to illicit activities. However, one indication can be found in the USG’s own 2007 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: “Morocco is the world’s biggest producer of cannabis resin (hashish) and is consistently ranked among the world’s largest producers of cannabis.” The report estimates that Morocco’s drug trade (mostly to Europe) nets about USD 13 billion per year, more than twice the amount brought in by tourism in 2007. Some portion of this money finds its way to Casablanca, where it is either spent on jewelry, cars, houses and other items, or it is laundered. Referring to the use of cafes as fronts for illegitimate business activities, one finance professional joked that “money laundering creates a nice cafe culture in Casablanca.”

From Cable Reference ID 08CASABLANCA104, 2008-05-23 16:04, Classification CONFIDENTIAL, Origin Embassy Casablanca.

Drug Trafficking in Mozambique

A cable was sent in November of 2009 from the US Embassy in Maputo detailing the increasing problems Mozambique was experiencing with drug trafficking. The diplomat described how “porous borders, lack of law enforcement resources, and rampant corruption allow drug traffickers to freely transit the country”.

Air Routes

2. (S) The primary route for cocaine is by air to Maputo from Brazil via Johannesburg, Lisbon or Luanda. On arrival passengers and baggage do not pass through immigration and customs, which allows them to avoid the improved security at the airports of origin. Drugs (mostly cocaine) are smuggled overland to South Africa for local South African consumption or onward to Europe. Cocaine is often smuggled by mules and/or in suitcases with hidden compartments. The drug traffickers routinely bribe Mozambique police, immigration and customs officials in order to get the drugs into the country. The decrease in drug related arrests at Maputo International Airport is not attributable to improved interdiction efforts but rather increased police and customs involvement in drug smuggling. A high level law enforcement official admits most police drug seizures are not reported to his office because traffickers and police make on-the-spot arrangements to allow the drugs to continue to flow. Police and customs officials routinely detain drug smugglers and are then bribed to release the smugglers and the drugs are confiscated and resold. Domingos Tivane, the Director of Customs, is directly involved in facilitating drug shipments. Tivane has amassed a personal fortune in excess of a million dollars, to include numerous investments around Mozambique.

Sea Routes

3. (S) Transport by sea is the preferred route for hashish, mandrax, and heroin shipments, often involving large quantities. Drugs come from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. They are then loaded onto a vessel that sails to Dar Es-Salam, Tanzania, or Mombasa, Kenya. Drugs are often concealed in containers with legitimate goods and are often offloaded and sent via land to Mozambique. Alternatively, the vessel offloads its cargo in the Ports of Maputo, Beira and especially Nacala. Drugs are then smuggled overland to South Africa or onward via air, to the U.S. and Europe.

“Mandrax” here refers to a brand name of methaqualone, commonly known as Quaaludes in North America. No longer legally produced, it is clandestinely manufactured for the illegal drug market in many African and South Asian countries. Methaqualone is a common drug of abuse in low-income segments of South African society, where it is mixed with cannabis (“dagga”) and typically smoked in a bottle neck pipe.

Two Main Drug Trafficking Networks

4. (S) There are two large drug trafficking networks that operate in Mozambique. Both of these networks have ties to South East Asia. Mohamed Bashir Suleiman (MBS) is the head of a well financed organized crime and money laundering network centered on the family owned and managed business conglomerate Grupo MBS. Suleiman uses Grupo MBS and proxies like Rassul Trading, run by Ghulam Rassul, and Niza Group, owned by the Ayoub family, to smuggle drugs from Pakistan via Dubai in containers carrying televisions, electrical equipment, cooking oil and automobiles. The Suleiman family has connections in South Africa, Somalia, Pakistan, Latin America and Portugal, and maintains a complex structure of businesses with a wide variety of commercial activities that serve as a cover for a multitude of illegal activities. Suleiman has a close relationship with former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano and current President Armando Guebuza, and enjoys ties to senior level Mozambican officials, including the Director of Customs, Tivane. Grupo MBS and the Suleiman family reportedly have connections in the Ibrahim Dawood international drug syndicate.

5. (S) Ghulam Rassul Moti is a Mozambique based ethnic South Asian narcotics trafficker who has smuggled hashish and heroin in the Nampula province of Northern Mozambique since at least 1993. He has been linked to several prominent international narcotics traffickers and uses these relationships and his political influence to avoid customs and police inspections at the seaports and borders. Moti owns Rassul Trading Co. and Grupo ARJ which are major narcotics importers in Nacala, and suspected in the trafficking of persons, mainly Pakistanis. Post is also seeing increased cooperation between West and East African based narcotics networks with Mozambique drug networks. The main drug organizations are rumored to support extremist Islamist elements in Mozambique.

Corruption of Senior Level Government Officials

6. (S) A porous border, lack of resources for law enforcement as well as endemic corruption among Mozambique’s senior level officials leads to a situation where drug traffickers are able to freely transit the country. Mid-level Mozambican officials are afraid to go after people involved in the major drug networks because they know they have connections to senior level government officials. Senior members of the ruling FRELIMO party are seeking to hide the level of corruption from the press, the electorate and the international donor community. As a high level law enforcement official also said recently in private, ‘Some fish are too big to catch.’

From Cable Reference ID 09MAPUTO1291, 2009-11-16 07:07, Classification SECRET, Origin Embassy Maputo.

Synthetic Cannabinoids: JWH-018 4-Alkyl Substitutions

Ah, JWH-018. Trivial to synthesize, highly potent, and a formerly legal substitute for the world’s most popular contraband drug. No wonder it reached the heights of popularity it did, and no wonder that labs are currently scrambling to replace it. And just like in corporate pharmacology, small substitutions can create not only a new compound, but a new cash cow free of previous legal restraints.

So let’s look at the naphthyl ring of JWH-018 in particular, and number our possible substitution sites for clarity. We could try many approaches at many positions, but suppose we limit ourselves to the 4-position. The halogens are a possibility (JWH-398 can be thought of JWH-018 with a chlorine substituted here), but let’s try some alkyl chains and see if they come up winners.

For reference, JWH-018 has binding affinities of 9.00 nM at CB1 and 2.94 nM at CB2. If we were a lab, we’d be looking for higher potency compounds (lower binding affinities) since increased attention from law enforcement means the only rational choice is to pack as much punch as you can in the smallest package for transport. It might be nice to try to search for compounds with the most pleasant effects, but that seems to be rather idealistic in the cold light of this new day.

JWH-122 (CB1 Ki = 0.69 nM, CB2 Ki = 1.20 nM)
Our first try, and things are looking good. A drastic increase in potency based on binding affinities, slightly smaller doses compared to JWH-018, and similar effects. Duration also appears to increase with this substitution, making it an apparent winner all around.
JWH-210 (CB1 Ki = 0.46 nM, CB2 Ki = 0.69 nM)
Increasing the alkyl chain length by a carbon appears to produce little drastic change. A similar duration to JWH-122, with perhaps a slight decrease in potency. A stimulating and slightly trippy headspace.
JWH-182 (CB1 Ki = 0.65nM, CB2 Ki = 1.10 nM)
Should be quite potent based on binding affinities, but is not widely distributed in the marketplace. Perhaps perceived qualitative potency in human subjects decreases as the 4-alkyl chain length increases as seen in the move from JWH-122 to JWH-210, making this compound not economical to produce at this point in time.

Synthetic Cannabinoids: JWH-018 Replacements

On November 24, 2010, the DEA used its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol, synthetic cannabinoids used as cannabis substitutes. If history is any guide, this tempory control will soon become permanent. The major motivations for this action appeared to be twofold. First, use among members of the military had become increasingly prevalent as these compounds produced metabolites that did not flag typical drug tests. Secondly, the high potency and full agonism of certain compounds (particularly JWH-018) could lead to states of anxiety in higher doses. While a temporary mental state and not reflective of any physical toxicity, hospitals began reporting an increase in admissions and emergency calls from primarily inexperienced and younger users in the midst of a wigout. Despite a complete lack of quantifiable mental or physical harm, this led to media demonization as a “dangeous drug available to teens”.

So the DEA intervened, but there’s just one problem. The synthetic cannabinoids emergency scheduled are a tiny fraction of literally thousands of related compounds known to science – with more being discovered every day. So what are some of the cannabinoids currently on the market that slide in under the radar?

JWH-018 (CB1 Ki = 9.00 nM, CB2 Ki = 2.94 nM)
The most famous alkylated naphthoylindole, doomed to criminalization in the United States, and included here as a structural reference.
JWH-019 (CB1 Ki = 9.80 nM, CB2 Ki = 5.55 nM)
Poor JWH-019. An alkylated naphthoylindole just like its butyl (JWH-073) and pentyl (JWH-018) brothers, they rose to fame while it languished in obscurity. A less anxiety prone and more cerebral headspace combined with a marginal decrease in potency relative to JWH-018 could lead to the last still-legal homologue of the family finally getting its dues.
JWH-081 (CB1 Ki = 1.20 nM, CB2 Ki = 12.4 nM)
If we look at the structure of JWH-081, we can see that it is very similar to JWH-018 with the exception of the methoxy group. Unlike JWH-018 however, it is more selective for the CB1 receptor which appears to be correlated with reduced anxiety (like JWH-073). A less trippy headspace with more physical stoning effects, and mild euphoria.
JWH-250 (CB1 Ki = 11 nM, CB2 Ki = 33 nM)
Replace the notorious napthalene ring of JWH-018 with a 2′-methoxyphenylacetyl group and you get JWH-250, a rising star. Unlike other synthetic cannabinoids which produce a more indica-style headspace, JWH-250 produces an effect somewhat similar to JWH-018 with a clear, soaring, sativa charactered stone.
RCS-4 (BTM-4, SR-19) (CB1 Ki = ?? nM, CB2 Ki = ?? nM)
With a structure reminiscent of JWH-081 if we chopped its napthyl in half to produce a phenyl group, this synthetic cannabinoid has similar potency and effects to JWH-018, all allegedly without legal issues or the infamous JWH “fear”. Interestingly enough this seems to be the result of independent research seeking new psychoactive (and profitable) cannabinoids, and not simply someone pinching from academic journal articles. Prohibition made the production of these cannabinoids a huge cash cow, and now a self-sustaining independent industry with very credible players has been born.
AM-694 (CB1 Ki = 0.08 nM, CB2 Ki = 1.44 nM)
A hyperpotent cannabinoid based on CB1 binding affinity, with a fluorine on the end of the pentyl chain in an apparent attempt to increase duration of effect. This raised some eyebrows when it first appeared with concerns about possible metabolism to toxic fluoroacetate. Luckily it appears that the odd-numbered (pentyl) chain means that the less toxic 3-fluoropropanoic acid will likely be produced instead. The choice of this compound for wide distribution rather than other alternatives raises questions, as the emphasis on duration and potency seem to reveal a focus on profit rather than quality of headspace.

This should not be considered anywhere near a complete list of compounds currently available in the marketplace, and is an even tinier slice of the vast number known to produce pleasurable psychoactive effects. It seems unlikely that a blanket approach based on criminalization will be practical, as a large number of related compounds have demonstrated breakthrough benefit in treating afflictions such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. There is simply too much money to be made with these new medicines that would be caught in the net, and legislators are aware of this.

What seems more likely is an uneasy truce between synthetic cannabinoid producers and the DEA based on certain criteria. If the producers are sensible enough to avoid explicit sales to military personnel and teens resulting in decreased media attention, they will likely be ignored. Synthetic cannabinoids preparations sold on a retail level (“herbal incence” products) will likely be seized for “investigation” regardless of the legality of the active ingredient, as inventory tied up in evidence lockers will result in cost pressures almost as effective as an actual ban. Existing distributors are likely to move toward larger scale sale of explicitly unscheduled cannabinoids, allowing greed to motivate new smaller players to move into the now excessive scrutiny of retail level distribution.

Heroin Will Bring Us Together

When it comes to organized crime in the Middle East, everyone seems to manage to get along as long as the money keeps flowing.

21. (SBU) The profit motive serves as a great unifier among Israel’s diverse demographic groups. According to xxxxx, some Amsterdam-based Hasidic groups allegedly are implicated in international drug smuggling through links to Israeli [organized crime]. Arab and Jewish Israeli criminals routinely cooperate and form alliances to expand control of lucrative drug, car theft and extortion rackets. Even hostile and closed borders pose few obstacles to [organized crime] groups. According to the INP, 43% of intercepted heroin in 2008 was smuggled from Lebanon, 37% from Jordan, and 12% from Egypt.

From Cable Reference ID 09TELAVIV1098, 2009-05-15 14:02, Classification UNCLASSIFIED, Origin Embassy Tel Aviv.

Afghan Government Protection of Heroin Traffickers

A diplomatic cable was sent in August 2009 detailing concerns the United States had with the embrace of the drug trade by the highest levels of the Afghan government. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Attorney General Mohammed Isha Aloko appear to have an interesting habit of releasing high-value detainees before they ever reach trial, including heroin traffickers with what seems to be overwhelming evidence against them.

4. (SBU) In April, President Karzai pardoned five border policemen who were caught with 124 kilograms of heroin in their border police vehicle. The policemen, who have come to be known as the Zahir Five, were tried, convicted and sentenced to terms of 16 to 18 years each at the Central Narcotics Tribunal. But President Karzai pardoned all five of them on the grounds that they were distantly related to two individuals who had been martyred during the civil war.

5. (S) Separately, President Karzai tampered with the narcotics case of Haji Amanullah, whose father is a wealthy businessman and one of his supporters. Without any constitutional authority, Karzai ordered the police to conduct a second investigation which resulted in the conclusion that the defendant had been framed. Daudzai told DAMB he was ashamed of the president for his interference in this case and the case of the Zahir Five.

6. (S) In another case, a CJTF investigation concluded that 26 kilograms of heroin seized from a vehicle search belonged to Col. Jaweed, Chief of the Highway Police for Badakshan Province. Jaweed is the nephew of a powerful member of Parliament. Eventually, he was arrested and is currently serving in Pol-i-Charkhi prison. But, there is credible, but unconfirmed, intelligence indicating that President Karzai has signed a letter pardoning Jaweed that has not yet been delivered to the Supreme Court. Daudzai denied any significant pressure in this case.

7. (S) Unconfirmed intelligence also indicates that President Karzai is planning to release drug trafficker Ismal Safed, who is serving a 19-year sentence in Pol-i-Charkhi. Safed is a priority DEA target who was arrested in 2005 in possession of large quantities of heroin and a cache of weapons. In 2008, DEA conducted an operation in which an undercover officer purchased approximately three kilograms of heroin directly from Safed. Daudzai told the Deputy Ambassador that President Karzai will not pardon Safed, and that Post’s concerns about this case will reaffirm President Karzai’s decision not to interfere.

So how did the “Zahir Five” get away so clean after being caught with over an eighth of a ton of heroin, and where did they get their catchy name? One member of the five was Bilal Wali Mohammad, the nephew of Haji Din Mohammad, the powerful politician who resigned his post as Kabul’s governor to head Karzai’s presidential re-election campaign in 2009. At the time of his arrest, Bilal was working as the personal secretary for his cousin, Haji Zahir, commander of the border police in Takhar, a province that borders Tajikistan and serves as a conduit for drugs to Russia and China. In fact, all five pardoned traffickers were employed by Zahir at the time of their arrest.

And who is the Daudzai who was so ashamed of the first two cases? He is Mohammad Omar Daudzai, Chief of Staff of the Afghanistan government. A real ally to US government interests perhaps, except for the fact that he receives millions of dollar via bags of cash in regular shipments from the Iranian government.

From Cable Reference ID 09KABUL2246, 2009-08-06 05:05, Classification SECRET, Origin Embassy Kabul.

Iranian Heroin Processing

Gigantic increases in the volumes of seized heroin derived from Afghan and Pakistani opium, processed in Iran, and headed for Azerbaijan (and presumably onward to Russia) have been observed in the last few years.

8. (C) According to [Source removed], export of narcotics from Iran into Azerbaijan continue to skyrocket (see ref b). According to statistics provided to Baku Iran watcher on June 3, 2009 by the UNODC-sponsored counter-narcotics “Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Center” (CARICC) headquarters in Tashkent, Iran-origin heroin seizures (i.e., heroin derived from Afghani and Pakistani opium that entered Azerbaijan from Iran) in Azerbaijan nearly quadrupled during the first quarter of 2009, as compared to the first quarter of 2008. According to the GOAJ, virtually all of this heroin had been fully processed in labs and was “ready for market.” Total heroin seizures in Azerbaijan during the first quarter of 2008 reflected a sharp increase over the first quarter of 2007; while in 2006 only twenty kilograms of such heroin was officially reported seized in Azerbaijan during the entire year. In contrast, reported GOAJ seizures of Iran-origin heroin during the first quarter of 2009 amounted to nearly 59,000 kilos, as compared to approximately 15,000 kilos of heroin seized in the first quarter of 2008.

Twenty kilos seized in all of 2006, an unclear seizure volume in 2007, 15,000 kilos in first quarter of 2008, and 59,000 kilos in the first quarter of 2009. An incredible increase that may reflect changing geopolitical alliances in the region, particularly the Iran-Russia relationship.

From Cable Reference ID 09BAKU478, 2009-06-12 12:12, Classification SECRET, Origin Embassy Baku.