In the introduction to the last report of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), the organization's Director, Pino Arlacchi writes that "the psychology of despair has gripped the minds of a generation" [in the area of drugs]. There follows a series of facts and figures intended to support the idea, which to say the least we feel obliged to qualify, that substantial progress has been made in the fight against the production of and trafficking in these substances. Mr. Arlacchi further notes: "The end of the Cold War and the emergence of real processes for peace in a number of hitherto insoluble conflicts have softened these tensions within the international system, making cooperation a more practical enterprise." While the end of the Cold War fostered the appearance of pseudo-states within which political corruption became institutionalized, it also triggered new local conflicts in which the protagonists, now unsubsidized by either of the two major blocks, were forced to seek sources of funding in illegal activities, foremost among which was drug trafficking. From Colombia to Afghanistan, Angola to Kosovo, drugs are a factor in prolonging these conflicts. Lastly, the fight against the drug trade is complicated by the economic and geopolitical interests of states, particularly rich countries which establish themselves as leaders in the war against drugs and are inclined to be indulgent with their allies or clients.



Limits of the War Against Drug Trafficking

The claim made in the ODCCP report that illicit drug production is declining appreciably is based solely on a selective use of data. For example, the ODCCP reports that coca cultivation declined in Bolivia and Peru between 1995 and 2000 (from approximately 150,000 hectares to 50,000 hectares), but fails to mention that this reduction was offset by a virtually equivalent increase in areas under illicit cultivation in Colombia (from 40,000 h to 130,000 h). In addition, improved agricultural techniques resulted in a sharp increase in productivity. Annual production, which was between 500 and 700 tonnes in 1990, rose to between 800 and 1,000 tonnes 10 years later. Furthermore, according to the U.S. State Department report made public in early March of this year, coca leaf production increased by 6% from 613,000 t to 650,800 t.


In the case of opiates, the increase in production (from 4,263 t to 5,004 t between 1999 and 2000, a 20% rise) is so high that drug traffickers themselves have ordered a freeze in Afghanistan for fear of a price collapse. In July 2000, Mulla Omar, leader of the Taliban, ordered the complete eradication of poppy crops, in a country which was hitherto the world's number one opium producer ahead of Myanmar. In October, when poppy seeds are planted, technicians from European NGOs observed that emissaries of the Emir were touring the villages spreading the message that the terrible drought that had struck the country was a punishment from heaven for cultivating that impious plant. Uncooperative peasants were imprisoned in Djelalabad, capital of the province of Nangahar. A field survey conducted in the eastern part of the country of Pakistani and Afghan opium traders suggests that the measure was in fact suggested by the central Asian Mafia, who wanted to flood the market with enormous amounts of opium and heroin accumulated from the record harvests of 1999 and 2000. They allegedly proposed financial compensation to the Taliban for halting production for one or more years.

The production of cannabis derivatives is constantly growing to supply markets where their consumption is becoming commonplace. According to the October 2000 report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), "more than 40 million persons in the EU have used marijuana or hashish. On average, one in five adolescents aged 15-16 and at least one in four 15-34 years old have experimented with cannabis." In 1999, Spain alone seized more than 400 tonnes of hashish from Morocco, where crops may cover 90,000 hectares in the Rif mountains and beyond. Around the world, authorities are also seizing large quantities of hashish from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal, as well as marijuana exported by Mexico, Colombia, Jamaica, Cambodia and all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Although the replacement of natural drugs with synthetic substitutes is not yet on the agenda, the production of and trafficking in synthetics are growing exponentially. In 1996, UNIDCP sounded the alarm, reporting that synthetic amphetamine-type stimulants "could become the preferred drugs of the twenty-first century". One can only observe that, in Europe, the number of seizures increased by 38% in 1997-1998, with an annual average of nearly three tonnes of pills in the United Kingdom, 1.5 tonnes in the Netherlands and 250 kg in Germany and Belgium. France is the hub for amphetamine and ecstasy exports to the United States which are controlled, in particular, by Israeli rings.

. In the United States, where annual seizures reached 1.7 tonnes in 1997-1998, the number of admissions to treatment centres rose spectacularly between 1992 (20,000) and 1997 (70,000), then stabilized in 1999 and 2000. However, in Southeast Asia and the Far East in particular, the phenomenon is constantly on the rise.



  • The amount of multilateral (UNIDCP) and bilateral cooperation in putting in place alternative development programs is notoriously inadequate (a few hundreds of millions of dollars, whereas traffickers' profits are in the billions).
  • However, more than "alternative crops", the real attractions for these countries are trade and tax benefits. It has been observed, for example, that the program for the virtually complete eradication of coca in Bolivia caused the country to lose approximately $500,000. The Bolivian government applied to the United States in vain for a customs duty that would have enabled it to "recover" $250,000. It should therefore not be surprising to see a resumption in illicit cultivation in that country.
  • Similarly, the European directive permitting the introduction of 5% of vegetable fat in chocolate will result in a loss of $200,000 for the Ivory Coast, where cannabis plantations are already developing in the coca-growing regions.



Mafia Activities and Political Corruption

Since no other illegal activity is as lucrative, drug trafficking has increased the harm capability of the criminal organizations engaged in it, particularly their ability to penetrate the economic and political structures of certain states. Economically, they have followed the globalization movement, where they have not anticipated it. However, faced with an offensive by various states, the major organizations ("Colombian cartels", Italian and Chinese "Mafia", Pakistani and Turk godfathers) first decentralized their structures in the mid-1990s to be less vulnerable to law enforcement. Where there were three or four major "cartels" in Colombia, there are now some 40 medium-size organizations in that country. Similarly, in the 1980s, there were a dozen groups of the Camorra in Naples; the number is now approximately 100, with 6,000 affiliates. These organizations simultaneously diversify their activities (trafficking in human beings, diamonds, protected species and so on) and delocalize them while strengthening their business ties with their counterparts on other continents.

As a result, Turkish Mafia organizations previously specializing in heroin trafficking are increasingly involved in trafficking in illegal immigrants, cigarette smuggling and forgery. When the Turkish government blocked casinos, the babas (godfathers) began to delocalize them to the Caribbean (Saint-Martin in particular) and in Africa (Dar Es-Salaam, Tanzania).

A recent affair provides an illustration of the current cooperation between criminal organizations. In late February 2001, Nicaraguan police, backed by the US DEA, intercepted at sea a Brazilian registered ship carrying eight tonnes of cocaine sold by the Colombian cartels to the Russian Mafia. The captain of the vessel was a Nicaraguan who had been working for a Russian criminal organization for five years.

The Sicilian Cosa Nostra which has been hard hit by the law in the past decade, has stepped up its international presence, in particular in Brazil, Canada, Eastern Europe and South Africa. According to South African anti-Mafia services, the Sicilian Mafia is solidly established in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Its operations range from money laundering — dummy corporations, real estate dealings — to cocaine trafficking, cooperation with Colombian groups and aiding and abetting escaped criminals. In the Cape Town region, the most prominent godfather is Vito Palazzolo, former banker for the Pizza Connection. Having escaped from Switzerland and sought refugee status in South Africa, where he first put his abilities to work for the apartheid regime before rendering services to the Mandela government, he remains one of the Cosa Nostra's leaders. He is currently under house arrest on the sole charge of personating a South African.

These activities are fostered by the relationships which criminal organizations maintain with the political powers. This is true not only in "banana republic dictatorships" (Myanmar and Equatorial Guinea) and non-states such as Afghanistan, Paraguay and Liberia, but also in countries that play a key geopolitical role in their region such as, for example, Turkey in Europe and Mexico in North America. In Turkey, the April 1999 election enabled a coalition of nationalist parties (on both the left and extreme right wings) to form a government with the army's support. With 16% of the popular vote, the MPH, the presentable façade of a not so presentable organization, the Grey Wolves, of which tens of members are incarcerated for criminal activities across Europe, has filled the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.

A similar situation prevails in relations between the United States and Mexico. A recent book sheds new light on relations between the Mexican drug "cartels" and the leaders of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (IRP), which has been in power for 70 years, in particular with the various presidents who have succeeded each other since the early 1980s.

Jean-François Boyer, who has questioned high-ranking police officers, academics including Jorge Castaneda, a political scientist who became the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs under President Vicente Fox elected in the summer of 2000, writes: "The country's financial authorities appear to have invited drug traffickers to invest their revenue in a decapitalized economy which is now being restructured; in exchange, the police and the Mexican army would close their eyes to drug trafficking; and both parties would agree not to resort to violence and to negotiate potential arrests on a case-by-case basis where it would be necessary to part company with U.S. antidrug authorities. Lastly, the Mexican government would undertake not to authorize the DEA and U.S. antidrug agencies to participate in law enforcement within the country." In exchange, the criminal organizations have apparently invested their profits ($5 to $10 billion a year) in the country, thus enabling Mexico to meet the economic conditions set by the United States for the creation of the great North American market under NAFTA in 1994. Lastly, it has been observed that every newly elected president has repressed the cartel to which his predecessor was closest and forged closer ties with one of its rivals. The United States has closed its eyes to these "agreements", particularly since, in the 1980s, their secret services also used the Mexican cartels to support the "contras", the militia fighting against the "Marxist" regime in Nicaragua from bases in neighbouring countries.





  • The heavy media coverage of record seizures and the dismantling of the "biggest" cartels (such as the Millennium cartel in Colombia in 1999), to the extent that they are constantly contradicted by further seizures and arrests, cause scepticism among the populations of the countries which organize law enforcement operations on a global scale. Police departments and governments should refrain from taking a triumphalist stance and present a truer picture of the successes and failures of the war against drugs.
  • These governments cannot both state that they are making the war against drugs a priority and sacrifice it to their economic and strategic interests. Public opinion must be informed of the priority objective.



Drugs in a Local Conflict: The Example of Kosovo

The explosion and diversification of drug production and the transformation of drug organizations, the third element in the current situation is the effect of increasing local conflicts on criminality and drug trafficking, a by-product of the end of the Cold War and of the turbulence caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the major powers whom nuclear deterrence prevented from confronting directly, did so through their Third World allies. The drug money used by the belligerents thus enabled certain countries to avoid drawing on secret funds to finance their allies. This was particularly true of all the major powers (United States, France) and the regional powers (Israel, Syria) concerned by the Lebanese civil war and of the United States and Central America. Far from putting an end to these local conflicts, the end of the Cold War merely revealed that they lacked any ideological basis, thus triggering ethnic, national, religious and other confrontations. As the belligerents could no longer rely on financing from their powerful protectors, they had to find alternative resources in various forms of trafficking, including drug trafficking. In some 30 conflicts, open, latent or in the course of being resolved, the presence of drugs in various forms and levels is apparent: Latin America (Colombia, Peru, Mexico), Asia (Afghanistan, Tadjikistan, India, Azerbaijan-Armenia, Chechnya, Georgia, Myanmar, Philippines), Europe (Yugoslavia, Turkey, Ireland, Spain) and Africa (Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Uganda, Angola, Somalia, Comoros).


Some of these conflicts - in Colombia, Afghanistan and Angola - pre-date the Cold War, but, with the withdrawal of sister parties and powerful protectors, they changed character, gradually sliding into predatory activities in the case of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and ethno-religious conflicts manipulated by regional powers in that of the Afghan and Angolan civil wars. In addition, the downfall of communist regimes was at the origin of the conflicts in Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Azerbaijan-Armenia and of the Georgian civil wars. The combatants in these conflicts dabble in all areas in their search for funding, trafficking in oil, drugs, strategic metals and so on.


Spiralling profits make drugs a particularly promising source of financing. The amount of taxes which the Taliban collects annually on drugs is estimated at $100 million. This figure may be multiplied by three or four in the case of the FARC. In a micro-conflict such as that of Casamance, in Senegal, the cannabis taxes levied in 1995 by the Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance (MDFC) amounted to several millions of dollars. This helps explain why these several hundreds of barefoot combatants have acquired increasingly sophisticated weapons over the years, and, despite the peace accord signed with the government, groups continue to confront the army and fight against them, particularly in the cannabis harvesting season.


One of the most significant recent examples of the use of drugs in triggering conflict and in the obstacles raised to its resolution is that of Kosovo.

In l991, the Observatoire géopolitique des drogues (OGD) reported that profits from the sale of heroin across Europe, in Switzerland in particular, by Albanian nationals of that Serbian province were used to purchase weapons in anticipation of an uprising against Serb oppression. After commencing military operations in late 1997, the Kosovo liberation army (UCK) was gradually driven from its positions by the army and Yugoslavian police and stopped operating except in pockets along the Albanian border. Following the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia and Kosovo (from March 24 to June 10, 1999), all that remained for the nationalist group was to prepare for a return in force at the time of the refugee resettlement. This is why it sought to acquire the genuine military potential which the Western countries had denied it. To this end, its source of financing was the tax paid by the 700,000 Albanians scattered across Europe (3% of wages and often more). However, this legal financing proved to be vulnerable, particularly when the Swiss government decided to manage the UCK account, called "The Homeland is Calling". Then the organization apparently decided to seek financing through drug trafficking, even if that entailed relations with the Italian Mafia, who provided it with weapons in exchange for heroin, cocaine and cannabis derivatives.

In some cases, UCK's presence as such has clearly been established, particularly by the Italian justice system. In others, the identity of "Albanian" trafficking partners has remained sealed, but leaves little doubt. When the police and justice systems of European countries have evidence of UCK involvement, it is hard for them, as a result of NATO's role in Kosovo, to report them officially. It is up to the press to draw conclusions from the information in hand or from "leaks" from certain judges. In June 1998, for example, some 100 persons including many Kosovars were arrested across Italy and in other European countries for drug and weapons trafficking. According to the prosecutor for Milan, eight rings had been responsible for introducing weapons into Kosovo. One hundred kilos of heroin and cocaine to be used to pay for weapons were seized.

On March 12, 1999, Czech police announced the arrest in Prague of Kosovar Princ Dobroshi, who had escaped from a Norwegian prison and was considered one of the biggest drug traffickers in Europe. A police spokesperson informed AFP that documents clearly stating that the man, aged 35, was using the proceeds of his trafficking to purchase weapons. Citing a member of the Czech secret service (BIS), the newspaper Lidove Noviny reported that those weapons were being delivered to the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).

At the end of that same month, the Italian daily Tempo, which published an interview of anti-Mafia national prosecutor Alberto Mariati, reported that UCK was "linked to the Naples Mafia, the Camorra, and to that of Pouilles" and that "the Kosovo clans are invested in drug trafficking for weapons". In April 1999, The Times of London reported that Europol was preparing a report for European ministers of the Interior and Justice emphasizing the connections between UCK and drug traffickers. According to that newspaper, German, Swiss and Swedish police had evidence that UCK was partially financed by drug sales.




  • For the above reasons, the rich countries of the world are relatively powerless to prevent conflict from being financed by drug money. The most effective way of combating this phenomenon is to prevent conflict through diplomatic means (which might perhaps have been possible in the case of Kosovo, if efforts had been made in time) or through stricter arms sales controls.



The Fight Against Drugs, an Economic and Political Weapon

The various types of compromises which the rich countries make with drug trafficking states are so widespread that their characteristics can be modelled. The most widespread stems from economic interests. During the 1990s, China and Poland readily agreed to be paid for the weapons they sold to Myanmar with heroin money. Rangoon in particular spent nearly $1 billion to purchase combat aircraft from China at a time when its currency reserves did not exceed $300 million. Members of the intelligence services of the French Embassy in Pakistan met by the author of this article did not rule out the possibility that drug money might at that time have been involved in the payment of France's weapons sales to that country.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund ask no questions about the origin of the funds enabling certain countries – in particular, Colombia during the 1980s - to pay their foreign debt. Certain European states and the Union itself close their eyes to the official protection granted for cannabis cultivation in Morocco because it contributes heavily to that country's economic equilibrium and it would be extremely costly to replace it.

However, drugs may also be used as a diplomatic weapon to destabilize or discredit a political adversary. An example of this attitude is the U.S. drug policy toward Iran. Throughout the 1990s, despite its efforts against the transiting of Afghan heroin (Iran lost nearly 3,000 men in these fights over 20 years), Iran was "decertified" by Washington, that is to say placed on a list of countries considered as trafficking states. This measure results in the suspension of all U.S. economic aid and, in particular, in its negative vote in all international bodies responsible for promoting international cooperation. When questioned by the OGD, a State Department representative answered that Iran had been placed on the list of "decertified" countries because it was a terrorist state, not because it was participating in international drug trafficking. In December 1998, President Clinton announced that he would remove Iran from the list of "decertified" countries. The reason given was that "Iran is no longer a significant opium and heroin producer and that it had stopped being a transit country for drugs destined for the United States." There was general understanding that this was a goodwill gesture in response to the policy of openness displayed by President Mohamed Khatami since 1997.

The U.S. use of drugs as a political weapon has its imitators. Many Third World countries now use it to fight their political opponents or ethnic and religious minorities living within their borders. The situation of Timor has received extensive media coverage, but there is at least one other Timor in Indonesia, and that is the province of Aceth, where fierce repression of the population of that region of northern Sumatra has given rise to a movement of armed revolt over the past 20 years. In the early 1990s, the Indonesian army's pretext for intervening massively in that region was to conduct cannabis eradication campaigns supported by the United States. It is true that the region was a traditional producer of the drug, but this in no way justified the deployment of such significant military resources, which proved to have murderous effect. Another example is that of the Sudan, where the fight against cannabis, this time supported by the U.N. special agency, has enabled the Islamic government at Karthoum to intervene in recent years against the animist Beja tribe.

The last factor concerning the manipulations in which drugs are an issue is diplomatic in nature. In this instance, a country conceals another state's involvement in drug trafficking in order to blackmail it into putting an end to it or to force it to comply with a policy desired by the first state in another area. The United States has simultaneously pursued these two objectives in the case of Syria, whose troops were deeply involved in hashish and heroin trafficking in Lebanon. In this way, the United States forced eradication campaigns on illicit drug crops on the Bekaa plain and Syrian participation in the Middle East peace negotiations. The same strategy is currently being used by Washington against General Hugo Banzer, elected president of Bolivia, whose military dictatorship (1971-1978) not only engaged in serious human rights violations and the assassination of opponents in foreign countries as part of the "Condor Plan", but also contributed to Bolivia's specialization in cocaine production.

Elected to a five-year presidential term in 1997, General Banzer, in an effort to make the international community, in particular the United States, forget his embarrassing past, immediately launched into an extensive campaign to eradicate coca crops, virtually all of which (37,000 hectares) had been uprooted in late 2000. As a result, the former dictator was cited as an example at the international meeting held in Palermo in December 2000 to adopt the Convention Against Organized Crime. This belated rehabilitation, with U.S. approval, may cause Third World leaders to think they will always have the opportunity to redeem their present involvement in drug trafficking. Furthermore, in 2000, it was proven that one of the Bolivian president's proteges, whom he had appointed advisor to his intelligence service, belonged to an Italian Mafia family and informed Bolivian drug traffickers.




  • The above developments implicitly contain a contrario propositions to which we need not return. However, the case of General Banzer is worthy of closer attention. The virtually complete eradication of coca crops was indeed obtained through the blackmail (and silence) of the United States and the international community, but, at the same time, every Latin American dictator will now be able to think, on the basis of this example which is well known across the continent, that he can engage in drug trafficking today and will need only become a drug eradicator for everyone to forget the source of his wealth and power.
  • General Banzer was indeed elected democratically and his action against illicit crops cannot be denied (to the extent that it respects human rights), but the international community must clearly state that it is not grateful to him because he merely righted the wrongs of his past actions.



Europe, the "Colombia Plan" and the United States

The "Colombia Plan" should be carefully considered because it marks a very appreciable difference in approach between Europe and the United States. All the elements of a lasting crisis are found in Colombia: internal conflict between Marxist guerrillas and extreme right wing militia members whose control of drug production is one of the reasons; a state attempt to restore civilian peace and resume control of the territory; the U.S. desire to intervene to put an end to drug trafficking at the risk of jeopardizing peace negotiations.

The official objective of the "Colombia Plan" is to combat drug trafficking, support the peace negotiations which began in 1998 with the main guerrilla movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and more recently with the National Liberation Army (ELN), and to promote the country's economic development, in particular for the most modest segments of the population. The overall cost of the plan is $7.5 billion. The Colombian government's contribution should amount to $4 billion. The United States has decided to contribute $1.3 billion. The rest is expected to come from bilateral cooperation (Spain, Japan) and multilateral cooperation, in particular with international financial organizations (World Bank, International Development Bank, Andean Financial Community, BIRD, etc.) and from the European Union.

In Colombia, the plan has come under criticism, not only by guerrillas, but also by development NGOs and human rights defence organizations. The criticism is based on the fact that approximately 70% of U.S. financing ($1 billion) will go to reinforce the military potential of law enforcement forces. In particular, 60 helicopters, including 18 Blackhawks, were purchased from the United States. The FARC and ELN thus believe that, under the guise of fighting against drug trafficking, the U.S. government, by reinforcing the Colombian army, in fact aims to sabotage the peace process and that it is the target of a genuine "act of war". The Colombian and international NGOs (Amnesty International, American Watch, WOLA and others) denounce what they consider "a logic of war", which can only exacerbate the unsafe circumstances in which the population is living. The plan is also disturbing and dividing Colombia's neighbours, which cannot help likening it to a plan – for which the United States flew trial balloons while officially denying it – to create a multilateral Latin American army to intervene in Colombia where the guerrillas and drug traffickers jeopardize regional security. Such a plan, which had been approved by Peru under former President Fujimori, has met with strong opposition by Venezuela (whose nationalist President Hugo Chavez does not conceal his sympathies for the FARC), Panama and Brazil, which takes a dim view of any initiative that might compete with its role as a regional power.

The countries bordering on Colombia (Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela and Panama) fear that a violent offensive against drug production in that country will scattter not only the population, but also guerrillas and drug traffickers across the Amazonian regions along their borders with Colombia.

At a meeting of the countries supporting the fight against drugs held in Bogota on October 24, 2000, the European Union, upon completion of a process in which France played a decisive role, clearly distanced itself from the "Colombia Plan". The EU's financial contribution of $871 million will essentially be allocated to the "institutional reinforcement" and "social development" program. However, this financial assistance is clearly outside the framework of the "Colombia Plan". The Union's spokesman, Renaud Vignal, from the French Department of Foreign Affairs, informed the meeting, "European aid is different from the Colombia Plan," and added, to avoid all ambiguity: "European assistance includes no military component ... For the European Union, there is no alternative to the peace process; there is no military solution to restore a sustainable peace." The Union's official responsible for Latin America, Francisco de Camara, hammered the message home: "We want to contribute to peace, not increase tension."

On March 8, 2001, a meeting was held between the diplomats of 26 states and the FARC in the demilitarized zone conceded to the guerrillas. The United States refused to attend, even though the new administration affirmed its "unequivocal support" for the peace process and that it "does not rule out taking part" in the second round of talks with the guerrillas. The European Union and most of the countries of the Schengen Area were represented, as were the Vatican, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and others. Following the meeting, a communiqué signed by all the countries present reiterated their support for the peace process. In addition, since May 2000, five countries – Cuba, Spain, France, Norway and Switzerland – have been members of the group of countries that are "friends" of the peace process together with the other guerrilla group of the National Liberation Army (ELN). The European Union's rising opposition to the "Colombia Plan" facilitated the change in strategy of the FARC, which was previously opposed to the presence of any international commission in the demilitarized zone and put the seriously compromised negotiations back on the rails.



Limits of the Fight Against Money Laundering

Illegal drugs of natural origin, with the exception of cannabis grown in countries such as the United States, Australia and the Netherlands and essentially destined for the domestic market, grow in Third World countries: Myanmar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, to mention only the main producers/exporters. This situation leads the public to hold these countries responsible for the harm caused by drugs in the rich countries.


However, if one considers the laundering of the money generated by drug production, one sees that the truth is somewhat the opposite. First, it may be seen that, between the price paid to peasants for the materials for drugs and the retail price the drug will bring in the streets of the rich countries, profit represents an average factor of 1,500 to 2,000 in the case of heroin and 20 to 40 in the case of hashish, on which traffickers can "make back their money" on the enormous quantities sold. It is also estimated that drug profits that remain or return to the producer countries do not represent more than 10% of the final value of the product sold in the rich countries. Thus, whereas the global market for Colombian cocaine represents some $50 billion annually, the impact on the local economy does not exceed $2 billion.


It may therefore be concluded that the largest portion of the profits generated by the sale of drugs is laundered and invested in the rich countries. This is why those countries have made the fight against money laundering a priority. They have created a host of specialized international and national services to track drug money: GAFI, TRACFIN, FINCEN, CTIF, FOPAC and so on. As the main multilateral organization, the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) was established in 1989, it is legitimate to consider the results of this fight. Damien Callamand, an expert at FOPAC, Interpol's money laundering unit, recently stated that if authorities seized approximately 10% of the drugs in circulation, they would confiscate barely 1% of the profits generated by criminal activities as a whole. He added that, apart from "Operation La Mina" (1994), which resulted in the seizure of $1.2 billion, all other seizures conducted since the fight began against money laundering in the world, that is to say over the past 10 years or so, would represent between $1 billion and $2 billion, whereas drug profits are estimated at between $300 billion and $500 billion annually.

Beyond the ambiguity of the legal monitoring systems and the deficiencies in their application, there is now a more fundamental contradiction: the desire to monitor capital movements in the context of a globalized economy. On the one hand, international financial organizations recommend the free movement of capital, while on the other hand, the states advocate their strict monitoring in the context of the fight against money laundering. The ultra-liberal arrangements imposed in the countries of the South and East imply massive and rapid privatizations in countries which generally do not have capital, whose industrial units and services are obsolete and where risks often deter entrepreneurs from investing. This opens the door to the Mafia whose essential purpose is less to do profitable business than to recycle their capital in conditions in which no entrepreneur operating with legal capital can compete. This was how the Italian Mafia bought ailing businesses in East Germany and throughout the CIS, how the Russian Mafia took control of many economic sectors in their country and how there has been an explosive increase in the number of tourist complexes in Latin America and Africa where occupancy rates are manipulated to justify the money laundering operations of criminal organizations of all kinds.

However, the rich countries, in particular some of those belonging to the Schengen Area, are also taking part in this search for new economic alternatives in their overseas possessions, where they hunt for foreign investors to start up or revitalize the economy: free areas are established to develop new activities (tourism, financial services). This is the case, for example, of the Caribbean, not only among the independent states, but also in the overseas territories of northern countries such as Saint-Martin, which is shared by France and the Netherlands. After the U.S. Mafia in the 1950s and 1960s, Italian criminal organizations followed successively in the 1960s and 1970s and Lebanese organizations in the 1980s and 1990s. The Turkish maffyas are the latest arrivals. The island has become a hub for cocaine destined for Europe and a money laundering centre of the first order through banks, tourist infrastructures and casinos.

A certain number of affairs suggest that a number of countries, and not the smallest, are particularly active when it comes to cornering their neighbour, but a much less active when the interests of their major banks are at stake. The United States, for example, has been at the origin of many affairs - in Switzerland. But at home, the affair involving the Salinas funds at the City Bank appears to have been completely hushed, as though legal authorities were now relying on the time bar. When the FATF produced its report in October 2000, the European press revealed that the absence of Jersey and Monaco from the list of apparent "money laundering" countries was in fact the result of negotiations between the United Kingdom and France.


Cyberbanking is the last barrier to the impulse to monitor capital. While banking transactions are not a novelty, their application through the Internet is. This ease of movement afforded by a gigantic transnational network with numerous ramifications increases capital volatility for two reasons: first of all because funds can be transferred from continent to continent by means of a personal computer and, second, because cash can be stocked on a smart card (electronic wallet). Money is thus immediately available, unlike a bank card, which requires a distributor. Eliminating this link also promotes confidentiality since, by a simple commercial transaction involving a credit card, it is possible to trace and monitor the itinerary of an individual. This affords criminal businesses enormous opportunities for moving colossal amounts of money. The problem increases with the extreme permeability of offshore banks in respect of which the banking legislation of the territories where they locate has been relaxed to attract capital. The analyses of Professor Jean Dupuy in his article "Le dédoublement du monde" [Duplication of the World] are apt here: "We are witnessing the emergence of a dual world. Mixing with the world of states, a system of legality, is a world in which the players are free agents, borne along by transnational flows and actuated solely by a desire for efficiency. This second world is radically different from the first: it is borderless; it is outside the law." It is impossible to overemphasize the problems involved in attacking drug trafficking through the fight against money laundering.




The United States has of course just lost its seat on the board of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), after having to give up the one it held on the Human Rights Commission. This reverse is probably the result of a combination of various interests. But one of the reasons is definitely the vote of certain Latin American countries which have always opposed the U.S. "certification" process and which received a significant degree of reinforcement with the election in 2000 of Vincente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) to the Mexican presidency. Although adjacent to the United States, Mexico rejects it and pleads strongly for a review of Mexican and Latin American relations with the United States with regard to the fight against drugs.

In addition, isolated phenomena such as the virtual disappearance of opiate production in Afghanistan, or more structural phenomena such as the development of synthetic drug production in the developed countries, will undermine some of the United States' arguments in its crusade against the producer countries. With regard to substance abuse, the advance of "risk reduction" policies, to which France, in particular, has rallied since the late 1990s, to the detriment of policies in favour of the U.S. policy of a "drug-free world", of which Sweden remains one of the last European supporters, is another sign of change.

But the United States retains its allies. The three major specialized U.N. organizations in the fight against drugs support its position: UNIDCP and ODCCP first of all, as we have said, and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), whose purpose is to monitor compliance with international conventions (1964, 1971 and 1988) developed under the influence of the United States. Although they can make their voices heard within these organizations, the emerging or developing countries are especially heard by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a direct expression of the U.N. General Assembly. The positions of these countries are at times even more extreme than those of the United States with regard to national policies on substance abuse and the international fight against drugs.

There are a number of reasons for this attitude. For some, it stems from the fact that these are non-democratic societies – China, Malaisia, Saudi Arabia and Iran – which punish all visible deviants very harshly. For others, this is simply the consequence of the fascination exercised by the "American model" or of an opportunism which pushes them to join in what is perceived as the dominant position of the rich countries. A third class aims, through punitive measures, to raise a smokescreen to trafficking activities engaged in by their elites. These countries treat drug users as criminals, minor traffickers as dangerous criminals and are prepared to support all anti-drug crusades, as long as they are not the target of them.

And this is particularly true since, if the Europeans have proven so enterprising in the case of Colombia, that country is in the United States' backyard. However, with regard to Africa, for example, the attitude of the former colonial powers – France, Britain, Spain, Portugal – is clearly not always as firm with certain continental governments involved in trafficking, not to mention the complicity they display in connection with money laundering centres such as Jersey for the United Kingdom and Saint-Martin/Sint Marteen for France and the Netherlands. These ambiguities and contradictions are not only a barrier to the fight against serious drug crimes, but they can also be the cause of new threats, as suggested by the U.S. attitude in the case of Colombia.

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