Most of heroin consumed in Canada is of Afghan origin

The Taliban in Afghanistan is now running significant heroin production lines in the war-torn country to provide jihadists and insurgents with billions of dollars, western law enforcement officials

And much of that heroin is flowing into Canada.

“More than 90 per cent of all heroin consumed in the US is of Mexican origin. But in Canada more than 90 per cent of the heroin consumed is of Afghan origin,” said William Brownfield, US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement when addressing reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul recently.

More than 200 kilograms of heroin were seized by Canadian border agents in 2015, with India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and countries in east Africa like Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda being key transit points for heroin that is largely produced in Afghanistan, The Canadian Border Services Agency said.

“Heroin is emerging as the drug of choice due to being cheaper and more easily obtainable than prescription opioids,” a CBSA report warned, noting that a surge in heroin “directly coincides with shrinking street supplies of OxyContin.

While the U.S. government has conceded that most of the heroin in neighboring Canada originates in Afghanistan, the the US Drug Enforcement Agency maintains that only about 1 percent of the seized heroin in the United States comes from the war-ravaged nation.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses in 2015 resulted in an unprecedented 52,404 deaths, including 33,091 (more than 60 percent) involving an opioid like heroin.

Increases in overdose deaths are reportedly concentrated in states at or near the U.S.-Canada border.

In a recent interview, U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko urged the United States government to look into the potential relationship between record production of opium in Afghanistan and the heroin crisis in North America.

He believes that the heroin usage is higher than cited by the DEA and that some of it is coming into the US via Canada.

“The Canadians say a vast majority of their heroin comes from Afghanistan. Now I don’t know about you; I spend a lot of time on the northern border. It’s pretty porous. You can get across the border. I do know if you look at the northern states … most of the heroin in Canada comes from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the state of Maine, the state of Massachusetts, the state of Vermont, the state of New Hampshire, the state of New York have all declared —their governors [have declared] — opium [heroin] epidemics. There’s probably more Afghan drugs here than we have said,” he was quoted as saying.

In 2016 Afghanistan, which produces 80 per cent of the world’s opium, made around 4,800 tonnes of the drug bringing in revenues of US$3 billion, according to the United Nations.

The Taliban has long taxed poppy-growing farmers to fund their years-long insurgency, but Western officials are concerned it is now running its own factories, refining the lucrative crop into morphine and heroin for exporting abroad.

“I pretty firmly feel they are processing all the harvest,” William Brownfield, US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement.

“Everything they harvest is duly processed inside the country. They receive more revenues if they process it before it has left the country.

“Obviously we are dealing with very loose figures, but drug trafficking amounts to billions of dollars every year from which the Taliban is taking a substantial percentage,” he added.

Poppies, which are cheap and easy to grow, make up half of Afghanistan’s entire agricultural output.

Farmers are paid about US$163 per kg for black sap – the raw opium that oozes out of poppy seed pods when they are slit with a knife.

Once it is refined into heroin, the Taliban sells it in regional markets for between US$2,300 and US$3,500 per kg. By the time it reaches Europe it wholesales for US$45,000, according to a Western expert who is advising Afghan anti-narcotics forces and asked not to be named.

He said an increase in seizures of chemicals required to turn opium into morphine, the first step before it becomes heroin, such as acid anhydride, points to an escalation in Taliban drug activity.

Afghanistan’s interior ministry said that between January and June, 46 clandestine drug factories were closed down by anti-narcotics officers compared with 16 in the first half of last year.

A senior Western official who asked not to be named was adamant that the Taliban have their own laboratories, describing the southern province of Helmand, where an estimated 80 per cent of Afghan poppies are grown, as a “big drug factory”.

“Helmand is all about drugs, poppy and Taliban. Most their funding comes from the poppy, morphine labs, heroin labs. Of course they have their own labs,” he said.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) opium production provided about half of the Taliban’s revenues in 2016.

David Dadge, a spokesman for UNODC, says there is “anecdotal evidence” that Taliban commanders are involved in the manufacture of opiates, but says that stops short of proving that the Taliban as an organisation has a systematic programme of running factories.

For the Afghan interior ministry, however, there is little doubt.

“The Taliban need more money to run their war machine and buy guns, that is why they have taken control of drug factories,” said Sayed Mehdi Kazemi, a spokesman for its counter-narcotics department.

Leave a comment