South Caucasus

It is notable the emergence of a new Southern Caucasus route. On this route, opiates produced in the Golden Crescent are trafficked from Iran to Ukraine or Moldova via Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. This route came to attention as a result of three remarkable seizures carried out in the countries of the Southern Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) in 2014. The most spectacular of these came in July 2014 in the port city of Batumi, Georgia, with the seizure of 2 500 litres of an unusual liquid mixture containing acetic anhydride, 589 kg of heroin, 12 kg of morphine and 2 kg of codeine from a lorry that had come from Iran via Azerbaijan. The drugs were reported to be destined for the Ukraine and Moldova. This suggests that the Caucasus is now being used to smuggle large amounts of opiates from Iran to northern Europe. The ferries that cross the Black Sea from Georgia to Ukraine and Moldova are likely to be used to that end. From Ukraine or Moldova it is possible to reach both lucrative western European markets and the large Russian market by a variety of overland routes. Turkish OCGs are known to cooperate with Iranian and Georgian OCGs and individual facilitators in organising and controlling heroin trafficking from source countries through this region to the retail markets for heroin in western Europe. Turkish OCGs are known to have an established presence in legal businesses in key locations along this trafficking route, such as transport companies. Areas of conflict in the Southern Caucasus region provide OCGs with opportunities for the trafficking of heroin to the EU with a reduced risk of detection. The purity of heroin intercepted along the Southern Caucasus route is reportedly high. In addition to security problems in many countries along these trafficking routes, the use of heroin within these countries can result in severe health and social problems, including HIV infections. In addition to the negative impacts on development in these regions it raises the issue of potential spill-over effects in neighbouring EU countries or as a result of migration to Europe.

(From the Europol drugs market report 2016)

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