US and Afghan law enforcement agencies have made what is believed to be the largest seizure of heroin in history, much of which would have been destined for the streets of Europe if it had not been impounded.
In a joint operation with Afghan narcotics investigators, officers from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) uncovered a “super lab” run by a suspected Taliban-linked trafficking network.
Launched against the Hadimama drug smuggling network back in October, the operation netted 20 tons of drugs worth an estimated $60 million (€57.4 million). The DEA said the haul was the largest ever seized in Afghanistan, if not the world.
The seizure was made up of 12.5 tons of morphine base, 6.4 tons of heroin base, 129kgs of crystal heroin, 134kgs of opium and 12kgs of hashish. The operation was kept under wraps until ABC News questioned a DEA official about an intelligence report the broadcaster obtained about the investigation.
Speaking with ABC, DEA spokesperson Steven Bell said: “This drug seizure alone prevented not only a massive amount of heroin hitting the streets throughout the world but also denied the Taliban money that would have been used to fund insurgent activities in and around the region.”
“If that was Pablo Escobar’s stash, that would be considered a lot of frickin’ heroin,” another DEA officer told ABC News. “That’s going to make a dent in the European market.”
In October, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that opium production in Afghanistan reached one of the highest levels on record this year, despite international efforts to stem the flow of the drug from the country. UNODC said cultivation increased well above 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres), making 2016 one of the top three years since the international body began estimating opium production in Afghanistan in 1994.
As well as the Afghan Taliban, numerous other terrorist organisations make a significant proportion of their revenue from producing and/or selling heroin into the lucrative European and US markets. In November last year, the Daily Star reported that Daesh was making up to €40 million annually by peddling Afghan heroin into major European cites. Back in June, Turkey’s Interior Ministry estimated that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) earns billions of euros annually from its drug smuggling networks throughout Europe and the Middle East.
It has been reported that terror groups such as Daesh are even linking up with traditional organised crime groups including the Italian mafia as part of their efforts to profit from activities such as drug trafficking and people smuggling.