Turkish authorities confiscated 31 percent more illegal substances in 2009 than the previous year, in a sign of increasing drug trafficking activities using Turkey as a thoroughfare, new data from the National Police Department’s Anti-Organized Crime and Smuggling Department show
Marijuana is the most frequently used illegal substance in Turkey and also the substance police seize most frequently in drug busts. Police data indicate a significant increase in both the amount of marijuana seized and the number of operations and arrests made in connection with marijuana possession and trafficking in 2009: a 25.2 percent increase over the previous year in the amount of marijuana seized, a 32.1 percent increase in marijuana drug-bust operations and a 27.1 percent increase in individuals charged with marijuana-related offenses.
As for those most frequently caught trafficking marijuana, Iranian and Syrian nationals lead the list. As for opium, 95 percent of the illegal substance seized by security forces in Turkey last year was impounded in provinces along the Iranian border; the other 5 percent was caught while in transit to İstanbul.
Heroin was mostly seized by police (95 percent) in the areas of Van, Hakkari and Ağrı along the Iranian border, with a segment of this being seized in drug busts, while the heroin was en route to İstanbul from these provinces through Bitlis and Erzincan. The other 5 percent of heroin was seized in anti-drug operations in İstanbul, Edirne and İzmir.
Meanwhile, ships with the right of free passage through the İstanbul and Çanakkale straits are an increasingly popular option for trafficking cocaine.Thus drug trafficking in Turkey — which seized more illegal substances in the years 2007 and 2008 than all European nations combined — has hit an all-time high, when counted in drug busts.
Trafficking falls in Afghanistan, on the rise in Turkey
According to the Anti-Organized Crime and Smuggling Department’s data, 9,078 kilograms of heroin were seized in Turkey in 2007, followed by 10,332 kilograms in 2008 and 12,234 kilograms in 2009.
Security forces’ investigations into the sources of drugs trafficked through Turkey show that despite a drop in drug production in Afghanistan, there has been an increase in the amount of illegal substances entering Turkey. Opium production in Afghanistan fell by 6.1 percent in 2007, by 10.4 percent in 2008 and by a further 18.4 percent in 2009. This was paralleled by a drop in the amount of Afghanistan-sourced drugs caught in Turkey of 21 percent.
The drop in drug output from Afghanistan is largely attributable to the banning of drug cultivation in six Afghan states following the American invasion of the country, dropping Afghanistan’s export of drugs to world nations by 20 percent. The Anti-Organized Crime and Smuggling Department says that while in 2008 drug rings turned to Myanmar as the new production ground for drugs, in 2009 this activity began to be shifted to areas in China’s northeast.
Istanbul, Canakkale straits new pathways for smuggling cocaine
All of the cocaine smuggling operations busted by Turkish security forces took place in İstanbul. Police say that the İstanbul and Çanakkale straits are the routes of choice for cocaine smugglers, who opt to utilize Bulgarian and Romanian-flagged ships, which have the right of free passage through the straits, to transport cocaine shipments to Russia.
Police teams said that in 2009 over one ton of cocaine was seized in Greece, noting that in connection with this, cocaine was smuggled through the Turkish straits and out through the Black Sea.
The police also determined that seizures of illegal captagon pills increased by 2 percent in 2009 over the previous year, while the number of individuals detained in connection with this drug increased by 111.1 percent. Similarly, 2009 saw a 56.2 percent increase in the amount of ecstasy seized in Turkey over 2008, matched with an increase of 73 percent in the detention of individuals in connection with its trafficking.
In operations against synthetic drugs, Turkey saw its first bust of 76 kilograms of methamphetamine in 2009. This substance is mostly produced in East and Southeast Asia, North America and Oceania, and there is no indication that it is widely used in Turkey; security forces say the drug is being shipped from Iran through Turkey using air cargo. Twelve operations against methamphetamine trafficking resulted in the detention of 29 Iranians and — for the first time — five Japanese nationals.