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    26 March 2010

    Massive Seizure of Drug-making Chemicals in Pakistan

    VIENNA, 26 March (UN Information Service) - Authorities at Port Qasim, Pakistan, have seized 15.8 tons of acetic anhydride, the precursor chemical used to produce heroin from opium estimated to be worth approximately US$5.5 million. This is the largest-ever seizure of acetic anhydride in Pakistan. The chemicals were found in barrels (labeled as paint destined for Karachi) in a six metre container.

    Officials of the anti-narcotic force Port Control Unit targeted the suspicious container by using profiling and intelligence-sharing techniques that they learned through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)/World Customs Organization (WCO) Container Control Programme. Acetic anhydride was identified by using a UNODC Precursor Identification Kit.

    More than 90 per cent of global trade is transported by sea, and these flows are rapidly increasing. This makes smuggling via containers increasingly attractive for criminals, and more challenging to detect. The Container Control Programme is designed to strengthen the capacity of ports to intercept containers with illicit cargoes by applying a matrix of risk factors. "This record-breaking seizure shows that UNODC can train and equip law enforcement agents to find needles in a haystack," said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.

    This is the latest in a steady stream of seizures made in ports that are part of the Container Control Programme, including in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Panama, Senegal and Turkmenistan. "We are making smuggling via containers a riskier business," said Mr. Costa.

    UNODC has been working with the Pakistani authorities since 2007 to strengthen their capacity to disrupt the trafficking of precursor chemicals and drugs via Pakistan. The programme, funded by Canada, is now being extended to dry ports, including those close to the Afghan border. Further expansion of the Container Control Programme is also planned for Afghanistan, Iran and Kazakhstan, as well as Azerbaijan and Georgia.

    "Pakistan's expertise in container security has developed so well that port officials who were trained by UNODC a few years ago are now trainers for other port authorities around the world, and its container terminals are regarded as models for neighbouring states," said Ketil Ottersen, UNODC's Senior Coordinator for the Container Control Programme.

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    Walter Kemp
    Spokesman and Speechwriter, UNODC
    Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629