Archives For narcotics

Egypt’s Ministry of Interior confirms that it has foiled a plot to smuggle a large shipment of cannabis weighing 6 tons into the country through the Mediterranean Sea on board a ship.

The Ministry said in an official statement that the efforts of its security services are continuing to abort the schemes of dangerous elements seeking to import and smuggle narcotics into Egypt.

It pointed out that early investigations of the General Directorate for Drug Control confirmed the intention of a gang to smuggle a large amount of cannabis stored in Syria to Egypt.

The crew of the ship managed to set sail from the Syrian port of Lattakia for landing off the coast of Egypt, but Egypt’s maritime security prevented them from doing so.

The ministry added that in light of the information available about the movement of the smugglers, they moved to the south of Crete to avoid arrest by the Egyptian authorities.

The ministry said that the concerned bodies coordinated with Greek authorities and provided them with information on the movements of the ship to be seized.

The coordination resulted in the Greek authorities seizing the ship and the cargo and arresting its crew of six persons with Syrian nationality.

The search of the ship resulted in the seizure of a total of 6 tons of cannabis hidden inside secret stores. Source: Egypt Independent, 9 December, 2017

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The Australian Border Force reports that four men have been arrested in Sydney and Melbourne for allegedly importing approximately 254kg of cocaine and 104kg of methyl-amphetamine into Australia.

Combined, the drugs had an estimated combined value in excess of $186 million.

An Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation commenced in December 2016 after the Australian Border Force (ABF) targeted a cargo consignment containing mining equipment which had arrived in Melbourne from South Africa.

ABF officers at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility examined the consignment which included industrial mining equipment. X-ray images revealed anomalies within an iron ore extractor.

It will be alleged that a physical examination of the iron ore extractor by ABF officers led to the discovery of 358 1kg block packages of cocaine and methyl-amphetamine, concealed within the equipment among a load of activated charcoal.

On 19 December 2016, the AFP commenced a controlled delivery where the consignment was delivered from Melbourne to a storage facility in Sydney.

Three men were arrested after accessing the consignment in Sydney on Sunday, 5 February 2017.

During additional search warrants on Monday, 6 February, 2017 on the Central Coast of NSW, AFP officers also seized a large sum of cash in a compressed block of AUD$100 notes. The notes are currently the subject of further forensic analysis.

A fourth man was arrested in Melbourne on Wednesday, 8 February 2017.

A 47-year-old (Watanobbi) man and 75-year-old male South African citizen were charged with:

  • One count of attempt to import commercial quantities of border controlled drugs, pursuant to subsection 307.1 (1), by virtue of subsection 11.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) and;
  • One count of attempt to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, pursuant to subsection 307.5 (1), by virtue of subsection 11.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

A 39-year-old (Doonside) man was charged with:

  • One count of attempt to possess commercial quantities of border controlled drugs, pursuant to subsection 307.5(1) by virtue of subsection 11.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

A 38-year-old (Roxburgh Park) man was charged with:

  • One count of import commercial quantities of border controlled drugs, pursuant to subsection 307.1 (1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment.

AFP Commander John Beveridge said the AFP and its partners are committed to protecting the Australian community from the scourge of illicit drugs through targeted detection and disruption.

“The AFP will continue to work with its partner law enforcement agencies to disrupt all forms of drug importation attempts and target those who believe they are above the law,” Commander Beveridge said.

“These arrests send a strong message to criminals who choose to import harmful drugs into our community for their own profits – you will be caught, no matter how creative you believe your concealment method may be.”

ABF Regional Commander Victoria and Tasmania, James Watson, praised ABF officers at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility for the outstanding detection.

“Our officers have the expertise and technology to detect even the most sophisticated concealment. In this instance, our upgraded container x-ray technology has been able to penetrate through several layers of steel, machinery and coal/stones to identify these concealed packages.

“The success of this operation once again highlights how effectively Australia’s border and law enforcement agencies are working together to stop illicit drugs from entering our community, and how instrumental the ABF is in keeping these dangerous drugs off our streets.”

Three men appeared before Sydney Central Local Court on Monday, 6 February 2017 where they were remanded in custody.

A fourth man appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 where he was remanded in custody to re-appear on 10 February 2017 for a filing hearing. Source: Border.gov.au

Aus-drug-bustAustralian law enforcement agencies have seized methylamphetamine worth AUS$1.26bn in the country’s largest-ever haul of the illicit drug in its liquid form, officials said Monday.

Four Hong Kong passport holders were arrested in Sydney last month over the import from China of 720 liters of the drug hidden in boxes of silicon bra inserts and art supplies, police said in a statement

The liquid could have made about 500kg of high-grade crystal meth, commonly known in Australia as ice, Australian Federal Police Commander Chris Sheehan said.

Officials also seized 2kg of the crystalized form of the drug.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the operation used information gathered through new cooperation between Australian Federal Police and China’s National Narcotics Control Commission. The Australian and Chinese agencies established a joint task force in November to investigate criminal syndicates trafficking methamphetamine.

“This largest seizure of liquid methylamphetamine to date is the result of organized criminals targeting the lucrative Australian ice market from offshore,” Keenan told reporters.

The four will appear in a Sydney court next month charged with importing and manufacturing commercial quantities of illegal drugs. Each suspect faces a potential life sentence if convicted.

Keenan said the seizure was one the largest hauls of illicit drugs in Australian history. Source: Perth News

Authorities on both sides of the US-Mexico border have shut the 10th drug-smuggling tunnel to San Diego in more than a decade, a passageway Mexican authorities on Thursday attributed to the cartel of fugitive kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

A sophisticated, super tunnel was discovered by federal officials Wednesday night near San Diego, leading to the arrest of 22 people and confiscation of 12 tons of marijuana estimated at $6 million.

The tunnel, originating from the Mexican border city of Tijuana, is about eight football fields in length, with the last quarter-mile crossing US territory before ending beneath a carpet warehouse in the busy Otay Mesa industrial district of San Diego, US and Mexican officials said.

The tunnel was uncovered through intelligence gathered by US federal agents who infiltrated a Mexican drug-smuggling ring during the past six months, according to Laura Duffy, the US Attorney in San Diego.

It marked the 10th subterranean passageway from Mexico to Otay Mesa discovered since 2002. Like those and dozens of others found along the nearly 3 200km border in the last decade, the latest tunnel was equipped with lighting, ventilation and a rail system for moving goods, authorities said.

Two Mexican government security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the latest passage belonged to the Guzman-led Sinaloa drug cartel.

Duffy said US officials were less certain that Sinaloa was behind the new tunnel, based on the comparatively unfinished, dangerous nature of the tunnel shaft on the US side.

“We usually see ladders going down and staircases,” she said.

“This particular tunnel drops 32 to 35 feet straight down.”

Duffy said US federal agents moved to seize control of the tunnel on its north end on Wednesday after a shipment of 2 tons of marijuana arrived there, and six men were arrested, two of whom were to be arraigned on federal drug-smuggling charges on Thursday.

Mexican agents seized 10 tons of marijuana awaiting shipment through the passage at the Tijuana side, and authorities expect to find more contraband when a thorough search of the tunnel is made, Duffy said.

Guzman, the world’s most wanted drug trafficker, escaped in July from a Mexican maximum-security prison through a mile-long tunnel that surfaced right inside his cell.

His escape sparked a massive manhunt, and Mexico’s government said on Friday that Guzman had suffered injuries to his face and leg after recently beating a hasty retreat from security forces. Source: IOL

hoeghKenyan and U.S. authorities found drugs aboard the Höegh Autoliners “Pure Car/Truck Carrier” (PCTC), which was detained at Port Mombasa on September 17. The crew of the ship has been arrested and currently being questioned by authorities.

According to authorities, cocaine was found inside the tires of three military trucks aboard the Hoegh Transporter, a Singapore-flagged car carrier.

Kenyan officials raided the vessel after receiving a tip from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that the vessel had been loaded with the coke at India’s Port of Mumbai.

Kenyan soldiers and security personnel shut down the port for hours before seizing the ship and halting operations. Mombasa, which is Africa’s largest port, serves as the main gateway for imports and exports in the region.

East Africa is a major shipping route for Afghan narcotics bound for Europe. Maritime forces have been unable to curb the flow of drug transport in the region.

The Höegh Transporter was built in 1999 and was transporting nearly 4,000 vehicles, including about 250, which are to be used for peacekeeping missions in South Sudan. Source: Maritime Executive

A man who used pet cats as a cover to smuggle drugs valued at £1.2m into the country through Heathrow Airport has been jailed. A London-born dual national, Scott Parker, living in Benoni, Gauteng in South Africa, was handed a seven-and-a-half year prison sentence for smuggling heroin, when he appeared at Isleworth Crown Court on June 18, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The 43-year-old, who worked for a company which transports animals, pleaded guilty to attempting to import a class A drug, the NCA added.

He was arrested by the NCA on November 21 last year, at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, after staff alerted the Border Force of a crate used to transport animals from Johannesburg which was unusually heavy when empty.

Officers examined the crates and found compartments containing packages of the class A drug in the base, the NCA said. Forensic tests showed the packages consisted of around 9k of high purity heroin, which if cut and sold in the UK would have a street vale of around £1.2m.

The cats were reunited with their owners, who were completely unaware their animals had been used as a front for smuggling.
Ian Truby, from the NCA’s Border Investigation Team at Heathrow, said: “This was a highly unusual attempt to bring a substantial quantity of class A drugs into the UK.

“Parker thought he would avoid our attention. But the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre staff were vigilant and our investigation showed that he knew the drugs were there. Source: Customs Today

Kenya Heroin Seizure [www.maritime-executive.com]

Kenya Heroin Seizure [www.maritime-executive.com]

Nine foreign nationals were charged in a Kenyan court with trafficking the biggest ever single seizure of drugs at the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa.

There has been a surge in the volume of heroin trafficked through east Africa in recent years, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says, with east Africa’s biggest port of Mombasa cited as a transit point for narcotics and other contraband.

The suspects, who included six Pakistanis, two Indians and an Iranian, denied trafficking the heroin and were detained until November when their trial will begin.

Prosecutors told the court on Thursday that the 377.2 kg drug haul had a market value of 1.1 billion shillings ($12.54 million). Police also found 33,200 liters of liquid heroin whose value is yet to be established.

If convicted, the suspects face life imprisonment or a fine worth three times the value of the heroin, or both, a Mombasa-based lawyer told Reuters. The drug is typically transported from Pakistan and Iran to east Africa, known for its porous borders and weak maritime surveillance, and onwards to Europe.

They accused were arrested in Kenyan territorial waters in early July on board MV Bushehr Amin Darya, a stateless vessel, which was towed into the port of Mombasa, and police found the heroin hidden in the ship’s diesel tank.

Kenyan police said they were communicating with India, Pakistan and Iran to find the owners of the vessel, which they said was headed for Mombasa at the time it was intercepted.

An Australian warship seized a dhow in Kenyan waters with more than a tonne of heroin worth $268 million in April. Source: Reuters

Port of Lazaro Cardenas Mexico [www.puertolazarocardenas.com.mx]

Port of Lazaro Cardenas Mexico [www.puertolazarocardenas.com.mx]

At the beginning of May the Mexican authorities detained the 73,700 dwt Jian Hua with this following on from the earlier seizure of 119,000 tonnes of iron ore in storage at the port.

At the end of April the Mayor of Lazaro Cardenas was arrested and accused of kidnapping, extortion and links to organised crime and in November last year federal troops took over the security and customs functions at the port of Lazaro Cardenas and remain in charge today.

The main aim of these measures is to eradicate the influence of the violent criminal organisation the Knights Templar, whose base of operations is the south western state of Michoacan where the port of Lazaro Cardenas is located.

Knights Templar, through the corruption of customs and other officials, has been using the port of Lazaro Cardenas for the extensive import and export of illegal drugs. The iron cargoes are one of many ‘business diversifications’ by the cartel but as the Jian Hua shipment proves are illegal in that the documentation associated with this cargo showed production at a mine that is not yet authorised for legal operation.

For years the state of Michoacan has basically been lawless and the area around the port of Lazaro Cardenas has been a battleground between the various drug gangs with the Knights Templar being in ascendancy since 2010.

Since, however, the entry of federal agencies into the state, and notably the Mexican navy into the port of Lazaro Cardenas, the influence of Knights Templar has gone into severe decline. The cartel has basically lost control of its biggest business. They have also felt the wrath of a public uprising, the sharp end of which are armed vigilantes backed by federal forces.

The optimistic view is that the port of Lazaro Cardenas will become ‘clean’ again with the demise of Knights Templar and the arrangements it had with other drug cartels. The negative view is that another cartel will step into Knight Templar’s shoes and the port will again find itself under external control and home to illegal activities.

Short steps

The lesson here, as independent organisations such as Control Risks emphasise, is that it is a few relatively short steps before a major port gateway can be comprehensively penetrated by criminal organisations. The conditions that created an opening for Knights Templar are not unusual in Latin America in Control Risks’ view.

For these reasons, and many others associated with port efficiency, it is very important to have secure and professional agencies active in ports that are specialists in security and border management. It is also important to realise in this context that considerable assistance is available from external agencies such as the World Customs Organisation (WCO) to establish the proper controls and security checks. Further, that it is often only by the use of independent agencies or organisations that comprehensive experience and know-how can be deployed to achieve this – the arms’ length approach which can circumvent internal corruption.

If corrupt elements are in place there will inevitably be resistance to change but an external agency forcing the pace of change, based on global experience, will play a major part in overcoming such elements.

Taking the WCO as an example, among other things it functions as a forum for dialogue and exchange of experiences between national Customs delegates. The WCO offers its members a range of conventions and other international instruments, as well as technical assistance and training services provided either directly by the secretariat, or with its participation. The secretariat also actively supports its members in their endeavours to modernise and build capacity within their respective national Customs administrations.

The WCO’s efforts to combat fraudulent activities are also recognised internationally. The partnership approach championed by the WCO is one of the keys to building bridges between Customs administrations and all the stakeholders in the transport chain. Source: Port Strategy

Drugroutemap

See what the CIA’s Factbook has to say about Southern African countries and their role in the international narcotics supply chain –

Zimbabwe A transit point for cannabis and South Asian heroin, mandrax, and methamphetamines en route to South Africa
Zambia A transshipment point for moderate amounts of methaqualone, small amounts of heroin, and cocaine bound for southern Africa and possibly Europe; a poorly developed financial infrastructure coupled with a government commitment to combating money laundering make it an unattractive venue for money launderers; major consumer of cannabis
South Africa A Transshipment center for heroin, hashish, and cocaine, as well as a major cultivator of marijuana in its own right; cocaine and heroin consumption on the rise; world’s largest market for illicit methaqualone, usually imported illegally from India through various east African countries, but increasingly producing its own synthetic drugs for domestic consumption; attractive venue for money launderers given the increasing level of organized criminal and narcotics activity in the region and the size of the South African economy
Mozambique Southern African transit point for South Asian hashish and heroin, and South American cocaine probably destined for the European and South African markets; producer of cannabis (for local consumption) and methaqualone (for export to South Africa); corruption and poor regulatory capability make the banking system vulnerable to money laundering, but the lack of a well-developed financial infrastructure limits the country’s utility as a money-laundering center
Angola Used as a transshipment point for cocaine destined for Western Europe and other African states, particularly South Africa

00013ee0-314The Mozambican police claims that it has seized almost 600 kilos of heroin, at Namoto, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, on the border with Tanzania.

The drugs were found on Sunday in the possession of two citizens of Guinea-Conakry, who are now under detention in the Cabo Delgado, provincial capital, Pemba. The drugs are being stored in the warehouses of the provincial attorney’s office.

According to Malva Brito, the spokesperson of the provincial police command, cited in Wednesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, the final destination of the heroin was South Africa.

Brito said the drug was concealed in an otherwise empty seven tonne pick-up truck. The Guineans had improvised a type of hold within the truck’s bodywork. But alerted by a strange smell and the odd size of the stowage area, the police searched the truck, and found the heroin in 118 plastic bags of about five kilos each (which is a total of 590 kilos).

When the heroin was found, the Guineans first claimed that it was fertilizer that they were taking to South Africa. When that didn’t work, they tried to bribe the frontier guards, offering them 60,000 US dollars. The bribe was not accepted.

The Guineans had started their journey in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, last Friday, and crossed Tanzania before entering Mozambique. The Toyota pick-up bore a number plate from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and supposedly belongs to a Congolese named Sidiki Sano, who is resident in Mozambique. The owner of the heroin is believed to live in Johannesburg.

If the police figures are accurate, this is an enormous drugs bust. According to the United Nations, heroin was selling in South Africa in 2012 for 35 dollars a gram. So 590 kilos would sell in Johannesburg for 20.65 million dollars. Source: Mozambique News Agency (Agência de Informação de Moçambique).

A team of UCSB researchers have mimicked the anatomy of a dog’s nose to build a highly effective scent detector that could be used to sniff out explosives and narcotics (University of California)

Combining nanotechnology and microfluidics, researchers at UC Santa Barbara have created a high-performance detector that draws inspiration from the anatomy of a dog’s nose to accurately identify substances – including explosives and narcotics – from very small concentrations of airborne molecules.

Able to detect smells ten thousand times as faint as humans can, a dog’s nose is an invaluable asset to police forces around the globe. So, when UCSB researchers set out to build an effective electronic nose that could assist homeland security, they already knew where they could find the perfect design.

By modeling the way in which a dog’s nose efficiently absorbs and then concentrates airborne molecules, the researchers were able to produce a device with remarkable performance, capable of capturing and identifying molecules in concentrations as low as one part per billion – as well, or better, than their furry counterparts.

Within the paperclip-sized chip, a network of microscale channels twenty times thinner than a human hair picks up the molecules and increases their concentration by a factor of up to a million. The molecules then interact with nanoparticles that amplify their spectral signature, and a miniature spectrometer detects their composition. The results from this analysis are then compared to a comprehensive database to find the closest match, identifying the molecule with a high degree of accuracy.

Even though it was first intended for use in explosives detection (the design will soon be commercialized for homeland security applications) this technology has much more far-reaching applications. Because it can be used to identify a very wide variety of molecules, the researchers say it could be easily adapted to detect narcotic substances, food that has spoiled, or even as a diagnostic tool that can identify disease, including certain forms of cancer. Source: http://www.gizmag.com.

 

When someone mentions drug running, most people probably picture a person coming through an airport carrying a suitcase with a false bottom or with balloons stuffed up their nether regions. We don’t usually imagine things like submarines. Unfortunately, the South American drug cartels not only imagine them, but they build and operate them. To help combat these underwater smugglers, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is operating their own drug-running submarine called PLUTO to develop and test a new generation of detection equipment.

Named after the hard to detect (former) planet, PLUTO reproduces the characteristics of what are commonly called “narco subs.” When rumors of their existence began to circulate in the 1990s, narco subs were dismissed as something out of a James Bond film and nicknamed “Bigfoot” because everyone in drug enforcement heard about them, but no one had seen one. Then one was captured in 2006 by the U.S. Coast Guard in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Narco subs are not true submarines. Instead, they’re a form of semi-submersible or, to give them their official designation, self-propelled, semi-submersibles (SPSSs). They ride very low in the water with only about three inches (7.62 ) of freeboard above the waterline and are designed to give only a tiny radar profile. They also ride very rough and their crews of three or four have little to eat, bad air and no toilet facilities as well as sometimes having an armed guard as a supervisor.

The subs are also meant to be expendable at the end of a delivery “Drug-running is lucrative. It is cheaper to simply build another vessel than to run the risk of trying to get a vessel and its crew home,” said Tom Tomaiko of S&T’s Borders and Maritime Security Division.

PLUTO was built in 2008 and is home-ported at Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where it is maintained by the Air Force’s 46th Test Squadron, though it operates in the Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Forty-five feet (13.71 m) long and running at a maximum speed of ten knots (11.52 mph/18.52 kph), though it only cruises at four to eight knots (4.60 mph/7.4 kph to 9.20 mph/14.81 kph), PLUTO can carry up to four crew, but usually only operates with one due to safety.

It’s used by the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection/Air and Marine (CBP/OAM), U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and other national agencies as a target submarine capable of mimicking a narco sub for the purpose of testing detection systems from ships, planes and even satellites at various angles and under different sea conditions.

Customs and Border Protection used PLUTO to test its Dash 8 maritime surveillance aircraft’s SeaVue radar to determine detection distances and aspect angles for optimal mission performance and the U.S. Navy tested its P-3 aircraft’s maritime surveillance radar system against the pseudo narco-sub.

PLUTO is only one part of an escalating war between drug cartels and law enforcement agencies. Recently, the cartels have started using true submarines that travel submerged, which means that PLUTO may now be fighting yesterday’s war.

According to Admiral James Stavridis, former Joint Commander for all U.S. forces in the Caribbean, Central and South America, “criminals are never going to wait for law enforcement to catch up. They are always extending the boundaries of imagination, and likewise, we must strive to push forward technology and invest in systems designed specifically to counter the semi-submersible. We need to be able to rapidly detect and interdict this new type of threat, both for its current effects via the drug trade, and – more troublingly – for its potential as a weapon in the hands of terrorists.” Source: Department of Homeland Security