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Date [ 2014-09-11, 08:20 ]

There is a connection between the production of opium and terrorist financing.

Opium - source of terrorist funding.

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) Liew Lai Keen = Afghanistan is the world leader in the production and trafficking of opiates: according to the United Nations on Drugs and Crime(UNODC) estimates in 2011, 83% of the global opiate share came from Afghanistan and generated a US 61 billion market. Today’s estimates run as high as USD 70 billion, with the value of the Russian opiate market estimated at USD 16-18 billion, the European (Western and Central Europe) – USD 13 billion, Eastern and South-East Asian – USD 9.4 billion, Australian – USD 3.5 billion, African with the increasing significance of the Southern heroin trafficking route - USD 3.2 billion.


Despite international efforts, opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan continues unabated, at least in the southern provinces, and in 2013 it reached a record high. According to the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey, cultivation amounted to some 209, 000 hectares, surpassing the earlier record of 193 000 hectares in 2007, and representing a 36% increase over 2012.

Heroin trafficking routes out of Afghanistan are shifting, making the situation more complex. Also criminal groups are diversifying efforts and becoming increasingly sophisticated.

International authorities and counter-drug control agencies have made some progress in the fight against opiates trafficking. However, in most cases, precise information on the location and movement of funds by organised criminal groups involved in the trafficking of opiates originating in Afghanistan remains an intelligence gap.
The net volume of globally intercepted drugs is 10-15%. However, only 0.5% of drug related funds and other assets are confiscated. This means that almost all drug profits are integrated into the world’s legitimate financial system. According to the UNODC 2011 research report on illicit financial flows resulting from drug trafficking and other transnational organised crime, “dirty money” has easy access to the legal financial system.

The illicit drug trade accounts for half of all proceeds of transnational organised crime and for a fifth of all criminal proceeds. Financial flows linked to opiates can circulate in the formal financial sector and/or money or value transfer services (MVTS), be held in cash, or be invested in the non-financial sector (legal and illegal businesses) in the region or elsewhere.

The Vienna Declaration adopted on February 16, 2012 during the Third Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact Partners on Combating Illicit Traffic in Opiates Originating in Afghanistan stressed that detecting and blocking of financial flows linked to illicit traffic in opiates would be crucial to undermine organised crime networks.

The Source

In Afghanistan, almost the entire opium poppy-cultivating area is located in regions characterised by low levels of government control. Available information on opiates production and export, demonstrate that the Taliban is a driving force behind the poppy-cultivation in Afghanistan, with the largest volumes produced in, and exported from areas where the terrorist threat levels are the highest. This is mostly in Afghan’s southern provinces

According to the information provided by the United Nations Al-Qaeda & Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Team (UNATSMT), Taliban revenue is generated from a range of illicit activities, not only form the narcotics trade.

The Team understands Taliban funding as follows:

-    revenue raised from taxing the local economy serves primarily to support local operations and is only in a few cases channelled upwards to the Senior Leadership.

-    Revenue extorted from narcotics producers and traffickers, construction and trucking companies, mobile telephone operators, mining companies and aid and development projects goes to the Taliban Financial Commission which answers to the Taliban Senior Leadership.

-    Donations, which constitute a major source of funding, also go to the Taliban Senior Leadership.
According to the ’sUNATSMT’s assessments, out of the total 2011-2012 Taliban’s budget of USD 400 million - one third was raised from the poppy trade.

To raise money, the Taliban runs a sophisticated protection racket for poppy farmers and drug traffickers, collecting taxes from the farmers and pay-offs from the traffickers for transporting the drugs through insurgent-controlled areas. They also demand large payments for the group’s exiled leadership. Generally, the fund-raising mechanism works in the following way:
1. Taliban commanders charge poppy farmers a 10% tax, called an ushr, on the product at the farm gate.
2. Taliban fighters augment their pay by working in the poppy fields during harvest.
3. Small traders, who collect opium paste from the farmers, pay the Taliban a tax, and truckers pay them a transit tariff for each kilo of opium paste or        heroinsmuggled out of the country.
4. The Taliban is paid for protecting the laboratories where the paste is turned into heroin, resulting in the highest Taliban military investments in areas with laboratiries24.

The UNATSMT further assessed, that soon the opiate trafficking will once again become one of the leading source of funding for the Afghan Taliban. With the reduction of international involvement in Afghanistan, there will be fewer requirements for transport and associated “security” services. These service providers have hitherto been exploited by criminal and terrorist groups and have provided significant funds in the form of extortion, protection and informal taxation. With the likely decline of this source of funding, the Monitoring Team consider that opiate financing will soon become essential to the Afghan Taliban and associated-criminal networks which pose the greatest threats to the national security of Afghanistan and wider regional stability.

Other Terrorist or Criminal Groups that Stand to Profit

Although limited in quantity, a number of case studies demonstrate how terrorist and criminal groups in Turkey and Afghanistan may support their activities by profiting from the Afghan opiate trade.

According to the Turkish Trafficking and Organised Crime Police, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is involved in heroin trafficking from the Turkey–Iran border to Western and Central Europe, either directly or indirectly by taxing the traffickers. Most drug trafficking routes overlap with areas in Turkey where the PKK has intensified its activities. The PKK is also reported to collect taxes per kilogram of heroin trafficked to Turkey from the Iran and Iraq borders, with potential profits reaching USD 200 million annually.

More direct involvement in heroin trafficking operations has been reported, such as a 2007 case involving 4 tons of seized heroin that were directly linked to PKK elements. Both Turkish organised crime groups and the PKK benefited from the USD 1 billion heroin trade in 2009.

Investigations revealed that the PKK organisation played a substantial role in the cultivation, production, trafficking and street level distribution of various drugs, as well as imposing taxes in Turkey and European countries on the traffickers’ incomes.

Between 1984 and 2012, 370 investigations of Turkish security agencies revealed engagement of the PKK into drug-related illicit activities. In these operations, 1, 214 individuals were arrested. High quantities of drugs were seized in 60 cell houses and shelters of the PKK. A total of 4, 253 kg heroin, 33, 290 kg cannabis, 5, 972, 747 cannabis plant, 4 ,305 kg morphine base, 22 kg opium gum, 710 kg cocaine, 344, 135 synthetic drugs, 26,190 liters of acidic anhydride and 2 heroin labs were seized in the operations carried out against the PKK organisation.


The multi-million dollar profits of narcotics trafficking networks have been seen to have leaked into the funds of terrorist networks. In the case of the Afghan Taliban and PKK, drug profits clearly provide a significant increase in their income and this can be directly translated into an increase in their ability to conduct lethal attacks and shadow governance activities. The shared use of gatekeepers may provide investigators from a range of agencies, the opportunities to gather information regarding these various networks. This also may provide Law Enforcement Agencies and Regulators with opportunities to conduct shared disruptionsagainst several networks of both terrorist and narcotics traffickers. The cooperation between terrorist and narcotics traffickers may provide added incentive and opportunities for inter-agency and international collaboration to disrupt common threats. The topic of co-existence of terrorist and criminal networks, how they co-operate and in some cases act as “force-multipliers” for each other, may benefit from further studies. This may assist the development of more accurate National Risk Assessments and consequent action to reduce the threat they pose.

Global heroin flow of Asian origins.

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