Press Releases

    30 September 2004

    UN Warns About Nexus Between Drugs, Crime and Terrorism

    VIENNA, 30 September (UN Information Service) – Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will address an international audience in Rome on Friday, 1 October, outlining the links between illicit drugs, organized crime, and international terrorism.

    “Drug trafficking has always meant untold suffering and death for addicts. Today, drug trafficking is also the source of a different and very urgent problem: the financing of terrorism. The revenue generated by organized crime offers terrorist groups a steady flow of funding, making the effort to eliminate drug trafficking and to reduce drug abuse critical strategies in the global fight against terrorism.”

    Director Costa’s remarks will trace the increasing reliance of terrorist organizations on revenue realized through arms trafficking, the trafficking of human beings, and drug smuggling, a shift which reflects increased efforts on the part of the international community to counter money-laundering and freeze illicit financial assets. The Director’s address will also draw from data on drug cultivation, trafficking and abuse documented in the 2004 World Drug Report, the world’s most complete survey on the international drug problem. Director Costa’s description of the nexus between organized crime and terrorism will include a survey of three critical case studies:

    1. Heroin trafficking: Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of opium. The 2003 production was estimated at 3,600 metric tonnes – a figure that is expected to increase this year (the results of the 2004 opium survey will be made public in late October). Terrorists and warlords in Afghanistan, as well as insurgents in Central Asia, the Russian Federation, and along the trafficking routes on the former Soviet Union’s Southern rim all the way to the Balkans, share part of the estimated US$ 30 billion world heroin market.

    2. Coca trafficking: In the Andean countries, coca cultivation has decreased by almost 50 per cent since 2000. In Colombia, however, insurgents and paramilitary groups - Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), Fuerza Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) – continue to benefit from the billions of dollars generated by the coca industry, just as the members of the Shining Path in Peru did in the 1980s and early 1990s. At the same time, the current decline in coca cultivation in Columbia has reduced the number of attacks by armed groups and the size of their armies, a decline also observed previously in Peru.

    3. Hashish trafficking: Drug trafficking from Morocco (estimated at US$ 12.5 billion) has been identified as the major source of funding for three major terrorist incidents: the aborted attack on a US Navy vessel in Gibraltar in 2002; the bombing of several sites in Casablanca in May 2003, and the March 2004 attack on rail passengers in Madrid.

    According to UNODC Director Costa, “It has become more and more difficult to distinguish clearly between terrorist groups and organized crime units, since their tactics increasingly overlap. The world is seeing the birth of a new hybrid of ‘organized crime – terrorist organizations,’ and it is imperative to sever the connection between crime, drugs, and terrorism now.”

    Director Costa will highlight the progress of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in combating illicit drug trafficking, and note that the Office, headquartered in Vienna, delivers critical assistance to States in the ratification and implementation of the universal instruments against terrorism, the Convention Against Trans-national Organized Crime, the Convention against Corruption, and the three anti-drug Conventions. Each of these legal instruments requires States to criminalize and prosecute related crimes, to provide mutual legal assistance and extradition, and to exchange information on preventive measures and criminal groups.

    “Global threats require global responses – based on a collective reaffirmation of the rule of law,” stresses Director Costa.

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