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Thursday, June 17, 1999 Published at 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK


Heroin tops cash league

Police have voiced concern over the level of heroin traffic

Glasgow's heroin trade is worth £10m more than the combined annual turnover of its two most famous football teams, a BBC Scotland investigation has revealed.

BBC Scotland's Bob Wyllie investigated the heroin trade
Senior police officers say they are seriously concerned about the amount of heroin traffic, which is predominantly controlled by Turkish gangs, coming into Scotland.

The investigation, based on criminal intelligence, found it is worth more than £70m a year - £10m more than the current annual turnovers of Rangers and Celtic football clubs put together.

It discovered that the average total consumption of Glasgow's heroin users amounts to around 1.5kgs a day.

[ image: Heroin seizures have reached a new peak]
Heroin seizures have reached a new peak
At current street prices that puts the cost of heroin abuse in the city at between £70m and £75m a year.

The findings came on the day Strathclyde Police, which covers Glasgow and the surrounding area, announced drug seizures were at record levels.

Strathclyde Police Chief Constable John Orr said heroin seizures had reached a new peak.

But his annual report also revealed drug-related deaths in the force area rose from 64 to 99 in the year 1998/1999.

In the six months since October 1998 and the end of March 1999, almost 42kgs of heroin were seized, whereas only 15kg were seized in the previous 12 months.

Sharp increase

Assistant Chief Constable, Jim Orr, said he accepted there had been a sharp increase in heroin supply.

But he stressed the seizure figures also reflected better policing methods and increased co-operation between all the agencies involved in beating drug crime.

He said: "These figures certainly cause concern to myself and my colleagues but in a very positive way it shows me that we now understand intelligence we receive and our response has become more sophisticated.

"We're working extremely well with our partners in customs, the Scottish Crime Squad and our partners outwith Scotland."

[ image: The lucrative trade starts in the east]
The lucrative trade starts in the east
Detective Inspector Gordon Meldrum, head of the National Criminal Intelligence Service's Scottish operation, said opiate cultivated in Pakistan and Afghanistan was taken via Iran for processing in Turkey.

He said: "Thereafter the finished product of heroin will generally go to the city of Istanbul."

Turkey's criminal networks then use what is known as the Balkan routes to get heroin through to Europe.

When it arrives in Britain, Mr Meldrum said organised criminals then organised its distribution.

Mr Meldrum said: "Turkish organised criminals control vast quantities of heroin in London principally but also in Liverpool.

"Organised crime in Glasgow will link into organised crime, which is principally Turkish, in London and Liverpool and work out how to transport the heroin northwards."

Value increase

The BBC investigation found that buying 1kg of heroin in London would cost around £20,000.

When that reaches Glasgow and is cut down, first to ounce bags and then £10 street deals, criminal intelligence suggested the original 1kg was worth around £140,000.

Based on estimates of the annual consumption of heroin in Glasgow, these figures mean the annual cost is between £70m and £75m.

Professor Neil McKegney, the head of drug research at Glasgow University, said this was a realistic estimate.

"For many people that would be a shocking and perhaps evening unbelievable statistic but to me it doesn't have that ring at all. It seems eminently believable.

"It's a measure of how the drug economy can provide a level of income that certainly no other legitimate source of income can," he added.

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