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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 19:26 GMT 20:26 UK
Globalisation boosts drug profits
Indian poppies
Poppies in India - a key transit route for heroin
Drugs traffickers around the world are thriving, largely because economic globalisation is making money laundering increasingly easy, according to a report published on Thursday.

"Around $350-400bn of drugs money was reintegrated into the global economy over the last year," the annual Geopolitical Drugs Watch (GDW) study says.

The Paris-based group blames the opening of financial borders and increased privatisation for the vast sums involved, and says drugs money is helping to fund conflicts all over the world.


Colombian anti-drug troops
The US is funding Colombian anti-drug troops

The report says drug production is not only on the increase in traditional countries such as Afghanistan and Colombia, but is spreading into new areas including southern Africa, Congo and Kenya.

In countries such as these, more and more laundered drugs money is being pocketed by an elite rather than benefiting local populations.

This has contributed to increased poverty and conflict over the last 15 years, the report says.

Mafia

A 200-strong global network of journalists, researchers and aid agency workers helps to produce the GDW's annual findings.

According to them, organised drugs networks in the northern hemisphere are using banks in the south as off-shore tax-havens to "clean" their drugs money.

"Criminal organisations, in particular the Russian mafia, are using the Pacific islands of Marshall, Niue, Samoa and above all Vanuatu as a money-laundering paradise," the report says.

Drugs barons, from both north and south, invest their illegal profits in traditional southern markets - from gold and diamonds to cocoa and coffee - drawing in governments and officials.

Conflicts

The report also lists around 30 conflicts around the world where drugs play a major role - the Basque armed separatist group ETA is listed along with Afghanistan, Colombia and Angola.


Ecstasy and hashish
Hashish and synthetic drug use is shooting up among Basques

ETA - which has an annual budget of between $15-20bn according to GDW estimates - has been boosting its coffers by drug dealing since the early 1980s when arms and drugs trading became inextricably linked, the report says.

It adds that hashish and synthetic drug use is now nearly twice as high in the Basque country as in the rest of Spain.

The GDW - subsidised by the EU and the French Government - also accuses the EU of not doing enough to tackle drugs networks in countries such as Burma, Morocco and Turkey.

The report coincides with an announcement by the United Nations that it is to conduct a new survey of heroin abuse in Pakistan, which is believed to have the highest addict population in the world.

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See also:

20 Apr 00 | South Asia
Pakistan faces heroin crisis
14 Apr 00 | Americas
US busts drug express
23 Feb 00 | South Asia
UN concerned over drugs in Asia
20 Apr 00 | Correspondent
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