Posts Tagged ‘ heroin

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.

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.