Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Drugs trade 'threatens mankind'
The drugs industry is putting democracy at risk, the conference heard
A conference of international drugs chiefs has been told that the illicit drugs trade is now the "greatest challenge" facing mankind.
The 25th European Heads of National Drugs Services Conference in Edinburgh, organised by Interpol, heard how co-operation between nations was vital.
Director General of the UK's National Criminal Intelligence Service, John Abbott, said: "The illicit drugs trade is the greatest social challenge facing the human race.
"It is a global problem and it is increasingly a European problem. In the UK the number of people taking drugs is increasing, the number of registered addicts is increasing, the number of deaths is increasing, the amount of drugs assets is increasing and the number of offenders arrested and convicted is increasing."
But he said it was vital that drugs barons should be targeted.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the power and wealth of some criminals threatens some countries and the democratic process.
"It is an acknowledged fact in law enforcement that to catch international criminals you follow the money. Just as money is their motive it is also potentially their Achilles heel."
Mr Abbott called for national confiscation agencies to be set up and for stronger legislation.
He said: "The way forward is to become more effective internationally in taking the financial assets of drugs barons."
UK Home Office Minister George Howarth also addressed the conference and said: "We must ensure that action against drugs remains a high priority for all of us."
Secretary-General of Interpol, Raymond Kendall, said: "If you recall 25 years ago, it was a time when they made the famous film French Connection.
"Everybody was interested then in a consignment of something like 100 kilograms of heroin which today would be regarded as almost insignificant."