HK a major distribution centre for designer drugs


From there they are moved to Tokyo, Seoul and Manila

HONGKONG has become a major distribution and financial centre for designer drugs in East and South-east Asia, according to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in its annual report.

The drugs, in particular methamphetamine, are transported through the territory to countries like Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

“Hongkong has become a major centre for ice-trafficking,” the INCB said in its section on Asia in the annual survey of the drug situation around the world released yesterday.

The Vienna-based United Nations agency said that a major laboratory in Hongkong that manufactured the drug was dismantled in February last year.

Commonly called “ice” because of its crystalline appearance, methamphetamine acts as a stimulant in the same way as cocaine. It is manufactured in clandestine laboratories in southern China.

The report noted that besides Hongkong, the Philippines was also being used as an “important transit country” for illicit methamphetamine shipments to East Asian nations and the United States.

“Large-scale illicit manufacture of, trafficking in and abuse of methamphetamine and amphetamine number among the greatest problems in East and South-east Asia,” the report warned.

Methamphetamine has been Japan’s main drug problem for the past 20 years and is most commonly used in South Korea.

In the Philippines, the abundant and low cost of methamphetamine (known as “shabu”) has made it popular.

It is also widely abused in Thailand, mainly among truck drivers and factory workers and in the entertainment industry.

Besides designer drugs, heroin abuse also posed a problem to countries in the region, said the report.

The INCB noted that “seaports and airports in China, Hongkong, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore were important transit points for heroin from South-east Asia to the US”.

In particular, it sees Vietnam emerging as a major outlet for opium and heroin from the Golden Triangle, a region covering parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.

The report noted that drug traffickers had also developed a major alternative land route in China for transporting heroin from the Golden Triangle. China’s expanding transport systems made it easier to smuggle drugs within the country.

As a result, the Chinese authorities were strengthening enforcement measures along entry and exit points in Yunnan Province, Fujian, Guangdong, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, and also Shanghai.

In the 62-page report, the INCB also said that countries facing political, economic or social turmoil continued to be the main targets of trafficking groups.

Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the transition economies of Central and eastern Europe continued toexperience growing drug abuse.

But developed countries were not free of problems.

In Europe, there was unrestricted availability of “soft” and “hard” drugs in large cities like Zurich.

The smuggling of South American cocaine into Canada and the US continued to be major threat due to a large supply of the drug which is sold at low prices.

The problems were compounded increasingly by the failure of nations to monitor measures to fight the drug trade.

This allowed drug czars the opportunity to divert and smuggle even raw materials and chemicals in drug manufacturing.

As an example, the report pointed to the illegal shipment of large quantities of ephedrine, used mainly in asthma treatment, from the Czech Republic via brokers in Switzerland, to clandestine laboratories in Mexico and the US.

As a result, it said that drug cartels were now able to shift their activities – cultivation, production and manufacturing of drugs – to any part of the world.

They were also stepping up co-operation among themselves.

The report cited new evidence of joint ventures involving Latin American cartels, European and African groups and organised criminals from Russia and eastern Europe.

Warned the INCB: “Drug traffickers are not only able to infiltrate national economies but are becoming a threat to international economic and financial activities by chalking up illegal profits that are second only to the profits derived from illegal arms transfers.”

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