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Drug Related News and Announcements

International Drug-Related News

Annual White House Report Calls Canada's Marijuana Reform Legislation "Troublesome."  The Canadian Press (9/18) reports, "An annual White House report on countries with drug problems says Canada's relatively lax penalties for marijuana producers and moves toward decriminalizing pot could be an "invitation" to organized crime that hinders police and prosecutors.  Canada isn't on the president's list of 22 major illicit drug-producing and transit countries, which includes Mexico and some South American countries that supply the vast majority of drugs to the United States.  But the report cited Canada's 'lack of significant judicial sanctions against marijuana producers' and marijuana reform legislation as troublesome."  The White House release said, "We are now working intensively with Canadian authorities to address the increase in the smuggling of Canadian-produced marijuana into the United States."  The report noted that "Canada, in turn, has expressed concern about the flow of cocaine and other illegal substances from the US."  The release said, "The two governments will continue to work closely in the year ahead to confront these shared threats."  The CP adds, "Officials in President George W. Bush's administration have long complained that Canadian regulations, which allow marijuana use for medical purposes, are increasing the pot problem.  Under the federal marijuana medical access regulation, Canadians can be authorized to grow, possess and use marijuana."

Marijuana Growers Recruit Rural Quebec High School Students To Pick Illicit Plants.  CTV.ca (9/20) reports, "Some high school students in rural Quebec are being recruited for work as part-time marijuana pickers.  They are being lured to pick the illicit plants, often hidden in corn fields, by the growers who are often associated with organized crime.  It often consumes two to three days of their week -- causing them to skip school in the process, said Claude Bernier, principal of a local high school in the region southeast of Montreal.  If they aren't picking, they're on guard keeping locals away from the crop.  The mayor said the growers give 14-year-olds an all-terrain vehicle, a cellphone and pay them $25 per hour in cash.  The high pay is creating a local labor shortage in traditional student jobs like washing dishes."  Police said that "growers take over patches of farmers' fields and then intimidate the landowners into silence." 

CBC News (9/19) reports, "A school principal in central Quebec says he worries the marijuana harvest is keeping his students out of the classroom.  Claude Bernier says the teenagers he's talking about are not smoking pot - they're being hired by drug dealers to cut it down.  Bernier estimates at least 20 students at Jean-Nicolet high school are spending more time sneaking around in corn fields than they are studying in classrooms.  He says the teenagers have told him that missed time picking pot is worth the money.  Students report earning between $20 and $30 an hour harvesting marijuana at illegal plantations, far more than they would make working in local stores." 

Customers Continue To Flock To Controversial Vancouver Marijuana Compassion Club.  The Toronto Star (9/18, Girard) reports, "In a city that has earned the nickname Vansterdam because of its liberal views on marijuana, a shop openly selling renowned B.C. bud is hardly big news.  But the Da Kine Food and Beverage Shop has been grabbing headlines for a couple weeks now as dozens of people file through its storefront on the city's Commercial Dr. and plunk down $10 a gram for marijuana or pick up some pot-laced baked goods.  Even after police raided the shop last week and arrested eight staff members, including owner and marijuana advocate Carol Gwilt, and charged them with trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking, it's been business as usual.  Customers, who have to prove they are at least 19, have been flocking to the shop in such great numbers since police confiscated Da Kine's stash and about $70,000 in cash that buyers this week were being restricted to a maximum of two grams for $20.  Customers have to show a Health Canada exemption allowing them to possess and consume small quantities of marijuana for medical reasons.  Those who can't can simply register inside the shop and sign a form saying the pot is being used to alleviate some kind of symptom, condition or disease.  An estimated 10,000 people have done so."  The Star adds, "Although police raided the shop and continue to monitor its operations closely, they say closing it down is a matter for the city.  A council meeting is set for next month into Da Kine's license, which was issued in May.  The police also dismiss suggestions that the Da Kine is a small-time compassion club dispensing marijuana to those legally entitled to possess it, and instead call it 'a drug house and a very significant operation.'  They note that when it was raided none of the more than three dozen people inside had federal exemptions to be using pot."

Afghan Government To Clear Out Officials And Warlords Involved Drugs Trade.  The London Guardian (10/6, MacAskill) reports, "The Afghan government, supported by the US and UK, is to mount an all-out push over the next six months against officials and warlords involved in the drugs trade, according to Afghan and western officials involved in counter-narcotics.  It will pit the Afghan government, supported by the US and other NATO forces, against the private armies of warlords who still control much of the country."  Mirwais Yassini, head of counter-narcotics for the transitional Afghan government, said, "The 10-year strategy [75% reduction in five years and complete eradication in 10] is too long. You go after the high-value targets and we will do that within the next six months."  The Guardian adds, "The targets would include corrupt ministers and governors in the existing government. Mr Yassini said there could be no political reform or security in Afghanistan without tackling them.  The push comes after US impatience with Britain, which is the lead government on drugs control in the NATO-led force occupying Afghanistan, for failing to reduce drug production over the last three years."  The Guardian notes, "According to the officials, the drive will see the new president, to be elected on Saturday but widely expected to be a confirmation of the transitional president, Hamid Karzai, begin by cleaning out of his cabinet those ministers involved in the drug trade and the warlords and governors either running the drugs trade in their provinces or collecting 'taxes' from traffickers."
 

France Offers Help In Effort To Combat Afghan Drug Trade.  In an op-ed in the Washington Post (10/6), Michhle Alliot-Marie, France's minister of defense, writes, "Afghanistan's presidential election this Saturday will be a key moment in that country's history.  For three years the international community has been doing an outstanding job of stabilizing Afghanistan and building a future for its people. ...  Yet despite the efforts of other nations and the reinforcement of deployed forces as the election approaches, one issue is particularly worthy of attention: the noticeable increase of narcotics production since 2002 and its geographical expansion in Afghanistan."  Alliot-Marie adds, "Like the international community, France is concerned about narcotics and is willing to help.  We will need to take advantage of the post-election dynamics to act quickly and help Afghanistan combat this problem.  A first step will be to reinforce the training programs of the Afghan police, to improve the judiciary system and to strengthen the disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating process. A second will be to encourage measures aimed at closing down and prohibiting poppy-processing laboratories.  But this will not be enough.  It will be necessary to establish an international force, other than the ISAF, specifically tasked with counternarcotics operations.  And a third axis is necessary, one which would support the development of substitute crops on a local basis.  There are many signs that production can be controlled if there is efficient action on the main issue: the poverty of small farmers."  Alliot-Marie continues, "At the same time, we must involve neighboring countries, taking into account the cross-border aspect of the drug scourge.  The international community needs to operate cohesively and to display a fierce determination to succeed.  France is committed to help Afghanistan in this political transition phase, beyond the election.  The involvement of our forces not only in the ISAF but also in counterterrorism through Operation Enduring Freedom and in the training of Afghan troops remains highly beneficial.  But I also believe that, in Afghanistan as elsewhere, counterterrorism must be global, and this encompasses the links between narcotics, money and terrorism. This is a war that must be fought on all fronts, a war in which France will be involved without reservation."

Former Marijuana Café Owner Released From Jail In Vancouver.  The Vancouver Province (10/18) reports, "Marijuana activist and former pot cafe owner Carol Gwilt has been released from jail in Vancouver.  Gwilt had been behind bars for more than a month for allegedly breaking her original bail conditions, after being arrested on charges of selling pot at her cafe.  Her lawyer, Jason Gratl, says she was released on bail Monday with the added condition she not contact the seven other co-accused.  Gratl says his client is grateful that she's been released and vows to take her fight to legalize marijuana off the streets and into the courts.  Police raided Gwilt's Da Kine cafe last month and charged her with trafficking and benefiting from the proceeds of crime." 
 

Lack Of Security In Iraq Causes Increase In Drug Smuggling Says Jordan's Anti-Narcotics Chief.  BBC News (10/18, Leyne) reports, "A lack of security in Iraq is causing a big increase in drug smuggling across the region, according to a senior official in neighboring Jordan.  The head of Jordan's anti-narcotics department, Tayel Majali, says there has been a string of substantial drugs hauls along Jordan's border with Iraq.  Iraq's other neighbors were recording similar problems as the security situation in Iraq worsened, he said.   Before the Iraq war, Jordan had few problems with drug smuggling from Iraq.  But now this year there have been a series of big drug finds on the Jordan-Iraq border as smugglers exploit the collapse of security."  BBC News adds, "Mr. Majali believes the drugs are coming from Afghanistan, then being brought through Iran and the Kurdish areas of Iraq.  From Jordan they are mostly sent on to the rest of the Middle East but there is a fear that Jordan will also begin to develop a serious problem of addiction.  Anti-drugs agencies across the region, including in Iraq itself, have been sharing information and they all report the same story."   

Brazil's Air Force Ready To Shoot Down Drug Planes.  The AP (10/17) reports, "Beginning Sunday, Brazil's air force may shoot down small planes suspected of carrying drugs under a law meant to stem the flow of cocaine pouring into the country at clandestine landing strips in the vast Amazon rainforest.  Only Colombia has a similar shoot-down law.  Peru also shot down suspected drug planes but stopped after downing a plane carrying an American missionary and her daughter in 2001, killing both of them.  The law was signed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on July 16 and had 90 days to take effect, giving the government time to inform Brazilians and neighbors."  Defense Minister Jose Viegas said, "Neighboring countries already are informed, and the criminals have been warned."  The Ap adds, "Viegas dismissed fears innocent victims could be killed, saying a wide range of precautionary procedures must be taken before a pilot will get authorization to attack.  Pilots must make visual contact with a suspected plane, try to make radio contact, try to change the plane's route, and fire warning shots before seeking authorization to shoot the plane down, he said."

BBC News (10/17, Gibb) reports, "A law allowing Brazil's air force to shoot down suspected drug planes comes into force on Sunday.  The government says the measure is necessary to stop the large amount of cocaine coming in both for sale locally and for shipment to other countries.  The shoot-down law has been widely publicized for three months but unregistered flights have continued.  Brazilian Defense Minister Jose Viegas said that all those using light aircraft had been adequately warned.  He said before air force pilots could seek authorization to shoot down a plane they would have to take eight steps including making visual contact and firing warning shots.  Authorization can only be given by the head of the air force."

Thai Police Seize 1.2 Million Speed Pills, 12 Kilos Of Heroin.  The AP (10/17) reports, "Thai police have arrested three suspected drug dealers and seized 1.2 million speed pills and 12 kilograms (27 pounds) of heroin from them in separate undercover operations Sunday, officials said.   Somsak Palae, a hilltribe man, was arrested after he gave 12 kilograms (27 pounds) of heroin to a plainclothes officer posing as a buyer near a hotel in the capital, Bangkok, said police Lt. Gen. Pansiri Prapawat.   Somsak later told a press conference the heroin had originated in neighboring Myanmar, and that he had planned to sell it to a Nigerian drug gang before his arrest."  

Kerry Reiterates Support For Plan Colombia. The Miami Herald (10/15, Bachelet) reports, “Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will issue a statement today reiterating his support for Plan Colombia, a U.S.-funded multibillion-dollar effort to help Colombia combat drug trafficking and armed insurgents.  Kerry’s announcement gives Colombian President Alvaro Uribe a boost in his efforts to secure an extension of the plan beyond its expiration at the end of 2005.”  Kerry said, “As a senator I have consistently supported Plan Colombia, and, as president, I will work with President Uribe to keep the bipartisan spirit in Washington alive in support of Plan Colombia, while insisting on progress on ending the violence against civilians.”  The Herald adds, “Colombia has received more than $3 billion since 2000 under Plan Colombia, originally crafted by the Clinton administration and actively supported by President Bush.  Colombian and US officials point to statistics, from declining kidnapping rates to fewer acres planted with coca, as proof that the program has been a success.”  Colombia’s ambassador to Washington, Luis Alberto Moreno, said “Kerry’s statement makes it clear that both Democrats and Republicans continue to back the initiative, increasing the chances for its renewal.”  Moreno said, “The important thing is that this has to be a bipartisan effort, it cannot be of one party or the other.” 
 

US Military Resists Proposals To Get Troops Involved In Afghan Drug War.  The Washington Times (10/14, Scarborough) reports, "Military officers at the Pentagon are resisting proposals to get troops directly involved in the drug war in Afghanistan, defense sources say.  In recent months, the Bush administration has been weighing options for forces to attack drug smugglers and opium-processing centers.  Members of Congress in public, and some officials privately, say such action is the only way to stem Afghanistan's burgeoning poppy crop and cut off drug money used by anti-coalition forces, including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network.  Two defense sources said some senior officers inside the Pentagon are balking at a larger role . The sources said much of the opposition is centered inside the Joint Staff, the planning and coordinating arm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."  A military source said, "They just don't want to mess with that stuff.  You only have so many resources, and then they want you to start doing what is really a law-enforcement job.  We don't have enough resources now to kill the bad guys."  The Times adds, "The administration is cautious about saying al Qaeda directly gets money from Afghanistan's poppy crop.  But The Washington Times has viewed photographs of captured al Qaeda contraband, which includes sacks of opium gum that is turned into heroin.  The administration has conducted a series of interagency meetings on changing the drug policy in Afghanistan. Some Pentagon civilian policy-makers and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are driving the push to get the military involved in drug interdiction."  House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, said in a Sept. 30 letter to the White House, "Until we address the illicit-drug-production issue in Afghanistan, we and the world community will face staggering amounts of heroin that one day may also come here.  These drugs will also continue to fund the ambitions of anti-coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan and our other global terrorist enemies worldwide. ...  There is a clear need at this stage for military action against the opium storage dumps and heroin laboratories.  If our excellent military cannot and will not undertake this, we will need to fund and support a military counter-narcotics battalion of troops from places like Turkey to take on this challenge.  As I have said time and again, time is not on our side."

Report Shows Increase In New Brunswick Drug Trade.  CBC News (10/14) reports, "New Brunswick's drug trade is on the rise, sparked by an increasing number of marijuana growing operations, a new report on organized crime said Wednesday.  The report, the first public one released by the Criminal Intelligence Service New Brunswick, also shows that the province has one of the country's highest rates of fraud.  In 2003, for example, 200 New Brunswickers were victims of identity theft, where criminals gain access to personal and banking information to drain accounts and run up big credit card bills. The losses totalled $261,000, the report said. The capital city of Fredericton saw a 43-per-cent increase in fraud cases for 2003 over the previous three-year average, and Miramichi's numbers rose 60 per cent compared to the average rate over the previous five years.  Partly as a result of those cases, New Brunswick has now pulled even with British Columbia in terms of fraud crimes per capita, and ranks behind only Alberta and Saskatchewan."

British Authorities Seize 120 Kilos Of Cocaine At Port.  BBC News (10/13) reports, "Cocaine worth an estimated £7.2m has been seized by Kent customs officers at Dover's Eastern Docks.  The 120kg haul was discovered stashed in a lorry after it arrived on a ferry from Dunkirk on Monday evening.   Customs officers found the drugs packed in boxes hidden among the cover load of tiles and shop fittings.  Lorry driver Michael Briggs, 52, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, is due in court next week charged with attempting to smuggle cocaine into the UK." 

Afghan Government To Clear Out Officials And Warlords Involved Drugs Trade.  The London Guardian (10/6, MacAskill) reports, "The Afghan government, supported by the US and UK, is to mount an all-out push over the next six months against officials and warlords involved in the drugs trade, according to Afghan and western officials involved in counter-narcotics.  It will pit the Afghan government, supported by the US and other NATO forces, against the private armies of warlords who still control much of the country."  Mirwais Yassini, head of counter-narcotics for the transitional Afghan government, said, "The 10-year strategy [75% reduction in five years and complete eradication in 10] is too long. You go after the high-value targets and we will do that within the next six months."  The Guardian adds, "The targets would include corrupt ministers and governors in the existing government. Mr Yassini said there could be no political reform or security in Afghanistan without tackling them.  The push comes after US impatience with Britain, which is the lead government on drugs control in the NATO-led force occupying Afghanistan, for failing to reduce drug production over the last three years."  The Guardian notes, "According to the officials, the drive will see the new president, to be elected on Saturday but widely expected to be a confirmation of the transitional president, Hamid Karzai, begin by cleaning out of his cabinet those ministers involved in the drug trade and the warlords and governors either running the drugs trade in their provinces or collecting 'taxes' from traffickers."
 

France Offers Help In Effort To Combat Afghan Drug Trade.  In an op-ed in the Washington Post (10/6), Michhle Alliot-Marie, France's minister of defense, writes, "Afghanistan's presidential election this Saturday will be a key moment in that country's history.  For three years the international community has been doing an outstanding job of stabilizing Afghanistan and building a future for its people. ...  Yet despite the efforts of other nations and the reinforcement of deployed forces as the election approaches, one issue is particularly worthy of attention: the noticeable increase of narcotics production since 2002 and its geographical expansion in Afghanistan."  Alliot-Marie adds, "Like the international community, France is concerned about narcotics and is willing to help.  We will need to take advantage of the post-election dynamics to act quickly and help Afghanistan combat this problem.  A first step will be to reinforce the training programs of the Afghan police, to improve the judiciary system and to strengthen the disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating process. A second will be to encourage measures aimed at closing down and prohibiting poppy-processing laboratories.  But this will not be enough.  It will be necessary to establish an international force, other than the ISAF, specifically tasked with counternarcotics operations.  And a third axis is necessary, one which would support the development of substitute crops on a local basis.  There are many signs that production can be controlled if there is efficient action on the main issue: the poverty of small farmers."  Alliot-Marie continues, "At the same time, we must involve neighboring countries, taking into account the cross-border aspect of the drug scourge.  The international community needs to operate cohesively and to display a fierce determination to succeed.  France is committed to help Afghanistan in this political transition phase, beyond the election.  The involvement of our forces not only in the ISAF but also in counterterrorism through Operation Enduring Freedom and in the training of Afghan troops remains highly beneficial.  But I also believe that, in Afghanistan as elsewhere, counterterrorism must be global, and this encompasses the links between narcotics, money and terrorism. This is a war that must be fought on all fronts, a war in which France will be involved without reservation."

Guatemala Becomes "Hottest Destination" For US-Bound Colombian Cocaine.  The Washington Post (10/6, A20, Jordan) reports, "Guatemala is now the hottest destination in Central America for Colombian cocaine on its way to the United States. Officials say tons are being flown to hastily carved landing strips in remote places such as Laguna del Tigre or shipped here in fishing vessels or freighters, then loaded onto trucks for a journey across this Tennessee-size country. The drugs are then driven across Mexico and into the United States, hidden in almost anything from cans of house paint to crates of fresh cheese.  'Every day it is a bigger and bigger problem,' said Juan Luis Florido, Guatemala's attorney general.  'It is a matter of national security for us and for the United States.'  The increased cocaine trafficking has left an ugly mark: sensational mob-style killings that US Ambassador John Hamilton has described as 'like something out of The Godfather.'  He recalled how hit men recently walked into a hospital and killed nurses as well as a suspected drug trafficker lying in a bed.  There also has been an alarming rise in the local use of crack cocaine.   The problems have become so severe that some citizens lament that former military governments knew how to control the problem better than the current democratic leaders."  The Post adds, "US officials here say they are increasingly concerned about the drug activity. Guatemala, still recovering from decades of civil war, has the largest economy in Central America. The officials say the traffic in cocaine -- and, increasingly, heroin -- is bringing more violence and instability, which have driven hundreds of thousands of citizens to migrate illegally to the United States in recent years.   Guatemalan officials say about 10 percent of the estimated 150 to 200 tons of cocaine a year passing through Guatemala is sold to users here, much of it distributed by street gangs known as maras.  Tens of thousands of tattooed gang members who control many poor neighborhoods are Central America's biggest security concern.  Their counterparts in the United States, from Los Angeles to Northern Virginia, are alarming US law enforcement officials." 

Cuba Mulls Fate Of Captured Colombian Drug Lord.  The AP (10/6, Rodriguez) reports, "Cuba is still investigating what to do with a major Colombian drug lord arrested on this Caribbean island while traveling on a false passport this summer, Cuba's top anti-drug official said Tuesday.  Authorities have determined, however, that the drug lord was 'in transit' in Cuba and didn't have any intention of developing a local drug market here, Gen. Jesus Becerra, chief of Cuba's anti-narcotics agency, told reporters.  Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante, an alleged leader of Colombia's Norte del Valle drug cartel, was arrested in Havana July 2.  He simply 'chose (Cuba) as a country to pass through,' Becerra said.  'He is detained, he has a defense lawyer, he enjoys the rights provided by our constitution,' Becerra added.  'We are working (on the case).'  Becerra declined to provide more details.  Colombia is trying to extradite Gomez Bustamante."  The AP adds, "If Gomez Bustamante is returned to his homeland, the Colombian government would likely arrange for his extradition to the United States, where he and two other kingpins were indicted earlier this year by a federal grand jury in New York on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and drug charges.  The US government had offered $5 million for information leading to the capture of Gomez Bustamante, whose cartel is believed to be the source of as much as 60 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States, according to the [DEA]."

President Hugo Chavez's Administration Open To Improving US-Venezuela Relations.  The AP (10/6) reports, "President Hugo Chavez's administration 'is willing to talk' with the United States to improve relations between Caracas and Washington, Venezuela's vice president said Tuesday.   Ties between Chavez and the Bush administration soured after Washington's initial endorsement of a 2002 coup that briefly ousted leftist Chavez.  Also helping to widen the rift have been the Venezuelan leader's cozy relationship with Cuba's President Fidel Castro and his criticism of the war in Iraq along with Washington's funding of organizations siding with Chavez's political opponents.  'We still have differences of opinion' with US officials, 'but we are looking for ways to cooperate,' Jose Vicente Rangel told the state-run Venezolana de Television channel.  'We are willing to talk.'  Rangel was responding to statements by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in which he was quoted by the New York Times as saying the dispute with Chavez is 'over and behind us.'"  The AP adds, "Powell, who is currently visiting Brazil, added that Latin American countries 'are looking for a better relationship with the United States, and we are looking for a better relationship with them.'"

Vancouver's Da Kine Café Closes Its Doors For Good.  The Canadian Press (10/6) reports, "The cafe that had been selling sides of marijuana with its food has closed its doors for good.  The Da Kine cafe garnered national media attention last month when it was raided by police officers clad in balaclavas, following media reports highlighting the pot sales.  The city of Vancouver was scheduled to review the cafe's business license Wednesday.  But a city spokeswoman issued a release Tuesday saying the operators have surrendered the license and closed the premises.  Cafe owner Carole Gwilt was charged with trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime after the Sept. 9 police raid."

US Agrees To Triple Aid To Venezuela To Combat Drug Trafficking. Voice of America News (9/30) reports, "The United States has agreed to more than triple aid to Venezuela to help fight drug trafficking.  Officials say the United States will provide Venezuela with about $4 million over the next year, compared with the previous annual contribution of $1.2 million.  The funds will be used for anti-drug programs such as training Venezuelan police." 

Authorities Capture Alleged Philippine "Shabu" Lab Financier In Hong Kong.  The Philippines Sun Star (10/1, Cabotaje, Versoza) reports, "The alleged financier of the mega shabu laboratory in Mandaue City was arrested in Hong Kong Thursday morning.  He was identified as Calvin de Jesus Tan alias Lin Chui Wi, Joey Ng and Joey Lin, 29. ...  Tan's name surfaced as the alleged Hong Kong-based contact of Hung Chin Chang, one of the arrested 11 suspects in Barangay Umapad, said the Anti-Illegal Special Operations Task Force (Aidsotf).  He was said to have given P5 million to another arrested suspect, Joseph Yu, to fund the shabu laboratory.  Deputy Director General Ricardo de Leon, Aidsotf chief, who confirmed Tan's arrest, said they still have to establish if indeed Tan is mastermind of what has been described as the biggest shabu laboratory in Southeast Asia.  Ilocos Norte Rep. Roque Ablan Jr., chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs and House oversight committee, said three of the suspects-Hung, Yu and Allan Yap Garcia-already confessed to them Tan's role.  Tan was charged in court yesterday on the basis of the joint affidavit of Ablan and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7 Chief Amado Marquez."  Ablan said, "If you call the financier and the one who gives orders as the mastermind, then he is the mastermind." 

Five Tons Of Cocaine Washes Up Along Atlantic Beaches Of France And Spain.  The London Guardian (10/1, Henley) reports, "Up to five tons of cocaine seems to have been washed up along the Atlantic beaches of France and Spain, apparently a single shipment dumped overboard by Mexican smugglers.  'Its a serious problem.  The street price has fallen by over a third, there's been a big rash of related hospitalizations, and a large number of people who had never even tried cocaine are now hooked,' said Jean-Michel Delile of the Bordeaux drug research centre.  The 1kg bricks are shrink-wrapped and bear a crown logo and the words Calidad Total (Total Quality).  They have appeared on the French coast between Arcachon and Biarritz, and Spanish beaches as far west as Bilbao.  Since January the French and Spanish police have recovered 1,500kg, tested as 85% pure.  'But what we've seized can only be a small fraction,' a police spokesman said in Hendaye, a Basque resort on the border.  'We can't put men along every meter of coast.'  Analysis shows the cocaine almost certainly comes from Mexico; it could have been dumped in panic at the approach of a patrol vessel, or lost while being transferred from a freighter in heavy seas." 

Canadian Army Arrests Three Soldiers For Drug Trafficking.  The AP (10/1) reports, "Three members of the Canadian army stationed at Edmonton Garrison have been arrested for trafficking in drugs including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine.  The arrests were made Tuesday and Wednesday by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service's drug enforcement team following a four-month investigation by both military and civilian police, said army spokesman Capt. Mark Giles."  He said, "We're not dealing with huge amounts.  But obviously small amounts or large amounts, it's a serious concern to us.  We need our troops to be prepared for operational deployment, and drug activity is not conducive to that."  The AP adds, "Hundreds of Edmonton-based soldiers have served in both Bosnia and Afghanistan over the last few years, but Giles said there is no evidence any trafficking took place during an overseas deployment."  He said, "There's no overseas connection whatsoever."

DEA, Turkish Police Hold Conference On Drug Smuggling, Trans-Border Crimes In Istanbul.  Turkish Press.com (9/29) reports, "Turkish Police Department Chief Gokhan Aydiner said that Turkey was ready to undertake more initiative in fight against drug smuggling.  The 'International Initiative Against Smuggling of Drugs and Money Laundering,' organized by Turkish Police Department and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of the United States, started today at the Istanbul Hilton Hotel.  Indicating that drug trafficking was a global problem and fight against it should also be global, Aydiner said that international cooperation meant that countries should exchange intelligence with each other.'"  Aydiner said that "Turkey would be glad to contribute to training and regional proactive fight against drug smuggling'', adding that ''it also wanted to undertake a more active role on this issue."  DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy said that the DEA has cooperated with many countries in fight against drug trafficking.  Stating that "DEA had offices in 60 countries," Tandy said that "they are happy because Turkey was a powerful partner in fight against drug trafficking." 

Turkish Press.com (9/29) reports, "Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said that international community comprehended the importance of fight against 'transborder crimes.'"  Aksu said they noticed that "crime organizations use more sophisticated methods as technology progress."  Aksu stressed that "Turkey has been exerting efforts to fight against drug smuggling for years by using the most advanced technology."  Aksu said, "Crime is a universal concept. It does not have nationality, religion, race or border.  Fight against drug smuggling should also be universal.  Success achieved in this area should be perceived as a success of international community.  Countries should support each other."  Aksu said that "the Turkish government supported coordination between Turkish security department and departments of other countries, noting that they expected other countries to assume a similar approach."  Aksu said that the" Turkish police confiscated 5 tons of heroin in 2003 and 6.8 tons of heroin in 2004, noting that the increase in the amount of heroin seized by the police demonstrates efforts deployed by Turkish security forces and high tech techniques used against drug smugglers." 

Xinhuanet (China) (9/29) reports, "Turkey is ready to take more initiatives to better combat drug smuggling and trans-border crimes. ...  Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu unveiled the idea at a conference entitled 'International Initiative Against Smuggling of Drugs and Money Laundering' held in Istanbul."  Administrator Tandy said that she was confident that "Turkey would prove to be a powerful partner in fight against drug trafficking."  Representatives from about 20 countries participated in the conference, organized by the Turkish Police Department and the DEA."

Colombian-Paramilitary Peace Negotiations Reach Critical Stage.  The Miami Herald (9/29, Dudley) reports, "Peace talks between the Colombian government and right-wing paramilitary groups have entered a critical stage after the government ordered the capture of one of the top paramilitary leaders and demanded a demobilization of their estimated 15,000 fighters."  The government's chief negotiator, Peace Commissioner Luis Camilo Restrepo said, "'If they don't start to demobilize immediately, then the peace process is not viable."  The Herald adds, "Restrepo's ultimatum Monday came just one day after the military issued an order for the capture of Juan Carlos Sierra-Ramírez, a paramilitary commander who was designated to the negotiating commission but has yet to appear publicly at the talks.  It's not clear whether the government moved against Sierra-Ramírez to turn up the pressure on the rest of the paramilitary negotiators, or as a gesture toward the United States, which has demanded his extradition.  A Colombian court had approved his extradition.  He was indicted by a US grand jury in 2002, along with paramilitary leaders Carlos Castaño and Salvatore Mancuso, for trafficking more than 17 tons of cocaine to the United States. Castaño disappeared in April under mysterious circumstances, and Mancuso is now one of the paramilitary's lead negotiators.' 

US Requests Extradition Of Second Top AUC Chief.  Xinhuanet (China) (9/289) reports, "The United States requested Colombia to extradite another chief of the illegal armed group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), official sources of the Colombian government said Tuesday.  Second top chief of the AUC Jesus Giraldo Serna, whose alias was Mono Viejo, was accused by Washington of producing and trafficking drugs to the United States from January 1998 to March 2004, said the sources.  The Colombian government earlier Tuesday authorized the extradition of Juan C. Sierra of the AUC.  Both Serna's brother and Sierra participated in the ongoing peace negotiations with the Colombian government beginning in July.  It is said the US government will also seek to extradite AUC's topleader Salvatore Mancuso.'  

Colombian-Paramilitary Peace Negotiations Reach Critical Stage.  The AP (9/29) reports, "Coca growers protesting Peruvian government plans to eradicate their cocaine-producing crop briefly held hostage a group of European tourists visiting Inca ruins in the city of Cuzco on Tuesday, police said.  The tourists, identified by Radioprogramas radio as 17 French and two Germans, were released after police stormed the Koricancha site, an Inca sun temple. Some 70 protesters were detained, police said. The travelers were not harmed.   About 100 coca growers surrounded the tourists, refusing to move for about an hour until police used tear gas to disperse them, authorities said. Koricancha is a popular site with travelers in Cuzco, an Andean city and former Inca capital located 350 miles southeast of Lima." 

Reuters (9/29, Emmott) reports, "Peruvian special forces have freed 17 foreign tourists who were briefly taken hostage by protesting coca growers in an Inca temple in the southern tourist city of Cuzco.  The hostage takers had been demanding an end to the U.S.-backed eradication of their crop, the raw material for cocaine.  'Special agents got the 17 tourists out with no injuries. They used tear gas to free them,' police spokesman Ricardo Vargas told Reuters by telephone on Tuesday.  Earlier reports had said there were 17 French and two German hostages who had been taken hostage in the Koricancha complex, a 17th century church built on top of an Inca temple, in the ancient Andean city. ...  The coca growers demanded a meeting with government officials to discuss coca eradication in Peru." 

Colombia Orders Outlaw Militia Negotiator Captured, Extradited To US.  Reuters (9/28, Webb) reports, "Colombia on Monday said its peace process with far-right paramilitaries could fail and ordered an outlaw militia negotiator to be captured and extradited to the United States for cocaine smuggling.  President Alvaro Uribe signed an extradition order for Juan Carlos Sierra, who until now had participated in struggling peace talks between the government and the outlawed United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC.  The government has accused the little-known Sierra of being a cocaine trafficker masquerading as a leader of the far-right group which targets Marxist rebels and has been responsible for many of Colombia's worst human rights abuses.  The order came as the government reacted angrily to the appearance of audio tapes made secretly by the paramilitaries.  The tapes revealed a top outlaw was boycotting negotiations, which are close to collapse."  Reuters adds, "The talks with the 20,000-strong AUC are key to Uribe's hopes of pacifying a country locked in a 40-year-old war and their failure would be a huge blow as he prepares to run for re-election in 2006.  But the order against Sierra showed how the government is struggling to negotiate with a group which the United States says is more interested in cocaine trafficking than in its illegal war with guerrillas."  Reuters notes, "Transcripts of tapes of the confidential negotiations, which started 18 months ago but began officially in July, were published by Semana magazine on the weekend and local television played extracts.  'The time has come for the total demobilization of the self-defense forces.  If we don't make immediate progress with real and effective demobilization, the process isn't viable,' said government peace negotiator Luis Carlos Restrepo." 

"Hyper-Fit Mules" Run Drugs Over US-Mexico Border.  Reuters (9/28, Gaynor) reports, "They are young, male and so lean they often have just 3 percent body fat.  They speed long distances by foot over deserts and rugged mountain trails on the US-Mexico border with heavy drug loads strapped to their backs.  Difficult to catch and with iron-like stamina, these smugglers hike up to 40 miles (65 km) in a few days, moving so quickly they sometimes leave stragglers literally dead in their tracks.  Hyper-fit drug mules, or "burreros," hauling marijuana over the trails between Mexico's Sonora state and Arizona are an extra headache for law enforcement agents struggling to contain the flow of drugs into the United States.  Little known outside law enforcement circles, the US Border Patrol's agents sometimes follow a trail of high energy drink bottles to track the athletes, believed to earn between $500 and $1,000 for each trip they make.  Mexican police say some of the smugglers slip in among office workers to train at gyms south of the border and supplement their diet with vitamins to get into top condition for the three- to four-day trek."  Nogales police chief Ramses Arce said, "They know they have to carry heavy drug loads for a certain time and over a certain distance.  So keeping in shape is their way of investing in their business." 

Mexican Drug Traffickers Kill Policeman During Rampage In Nuevo Laredo.  Reuters (9/28) reports, "A convoy of drug traffickers toting assault rifles went on a rampage in a Mexican border city on Monday, shooting dead one policeman and injuring four others, police and army sources said.  Police said 20 gunmen dressed in black military fatigues and packed into two trucks raked a police patrol car with gunfire from automatic weapons in Nuevo Laredo in the morning.  The driver was instantly killed and his colleague wounded.  The same group opened fire on two other patrol cars, wounding three officers, two of them seriously, in separate incidents in the city -- across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas.  Mexican troops later raided a house in an upscale residential area and arrested 17 people suspected of involvement in the shootings and seized 37 AK-47 assault rifles, grenade launchers and hand grenades.  The raid also netted thousands of rounds of ammunition and black paramilitary style uniforms, officials said."  Army spokesman Commander Mario Ayon said "the suspects all came from the 'narco-trafficking triangle' of the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango, in central and northern Mexico."
 

Quebec Judge Fines Two Convicted Hells Angels Ring Leaders.  The Canadian Press (9/28, Marowits) reports, "The Hells Angels biker gang may have suffered another blow Monday when a Quebec judge fined two convicted ring leaders $100,000 each for running a drug network.  Walter Stadnick, 51, and Donald Stockford, 42, both of Hamilton, Ont., were given two years to pay the fine or face spending another 18 months in prison.  The men were recently each sentenced to 20 years in prison for their role in Quebec's deadly biker war that claimed more than 150 lives.  They each must serve at least half their sentences before being eligible for parole.  Quebec Superior Court Justice Jerry Zigman said Monday the men earned nearly $2.5 million in profits from running a drug business that saw more than $10 million pass through an account between March 30, 1999, and Dec. 19, 2000."  Zigman said in his ruling, "The court is satisfied on a balance of probabilities that this sum of $2,469,110 is proceeds of crime and that the offences stated in (three counts) of the indictment were committed in relation to this sum of money."  The Cp adds, "The fines were levied in lieu of drug profits that police have not been able to locate." 

Winning The "War On Terror" Requires A Victory Over Afghan Opium Trade.  The Philadelphia Inquirer (9/27) editorializes, "While arguments continue over which presidential contender can win the 'war on terror,' not enough is being said about another 'war' on one of its battlefields.  In Afghanistan, long a focal point and problem spot of the 'war on drugs,' the situation has gotten worse.  The US State Department reports that Afghanistan is on pace to produce a record opium poppy crop this year."  The Inquirer adds, "The situation was put succinctly by Assistant Secretary of State Robert B. Charles, who in congressional testimony in April, said: 'In Afghanistan there are no more urgent and fundamental issues than the drug situation, which if left unchecked, will become a cancer that spreads and undermines all we are otherwise achieving in the areas of democracy, stability, anti-terrorism and rule of law.'  While Afghan farmers see little of the revenue generated from their crops, billions of dollars from the sale of opium and its derivative heroin are bankrolling criminal and terrorist organizations.  Winning a 'war on terror' then requires a victory against the opium traders.  But how do you win that fight?"  The Inquirer continues, "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last month said coalition forces fighting the Taliban and searching for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden would soon add to their tasks a coordinated effort to address Afghanistan's drug trade. But the failure of military actions to end the cocaine trade in Columbia provides little reason for optimism.  It's time to abandon the 'war' rhetoric when addressing the steps the world community must take in ending the illegal drug trade.  Afghanistan's dependence on poppy crops isn't likely to end as a result of a military action.  Poppy farmers, like coca farmers, have few, if any, cash crop alternatives.  They won't stop growing these narcotic plants until they have another way to feed their families.  Ultimately, narcotics-buying nations such as ours must address that issue, as well as the demand for illegal drugs that fuels this killing trade." 

FDA Approves Purdue Pharma's Palladone.  Reuters (9/27) reports, "The [FDA] on Friday approved a new Purdue Pharma L.P. opioid-based drug that aims to provide "around-the-clock" relief to patients with moderate to severe pain.  Privately-held Purdue also makes OxyContin, another controlled substance that has become known for its abuse potential.  But the Stamford, Conn.-based company has developed a plan to help minimize the risk for abuse of its latest drug, the FDA said in a statement.   The new drug, called Palladone contains a controlled substance called hydromorphone and has 'the potential for abuse,' the agency said.  It will be regulated by the [DEA], according to the statement.   FDA officials said Palladone should only be used in patients, who are already taking opioid medicines, and who need to take at least 12 milligrams of the oral hydromorphone or its equivalent each day.  The extended-release capsules are available in 12, 16, 24 and 32 milligram doses."  The FDA said, "Palladone offers a therapeutic choice for opioid-tolerant patients who might otherwise be candidates for other opioids and who do not achieve satisfactory therapeutic results with these other products." 

The Wall Street Journal (9/27, B2, Mathews) reports in its leading health story the FDA "approved a powerful long-acting painkiller called Palladone, but the decision came with restrictions designed to avoid the abuse and addiction problems that have arisen with similar drugs. The new drug is similar to OxyContin," but its active ingredient, hydromorphone, "is even more potent." Drugmaker Purdue says Palladone "is a capsule, not a tablet, and has a time-release function" that is "designed to be taken once every 24 hours" and "should make it more difficult, though not impossible, to misuse."  The FDA has imposed restrictions on its promotion, "to reduce the risk of misuse, Palladone will have a phased rollout in which Purdue will limit its promotion of the drug for the first 18 months, focusing initially on doctors who are highly experienced in prescribing similar painkillers." However, "there will be no restrictions on which doctors are allowed to prescribe the drug or which pharmacies

Associated Press Journalists Accompany Colombian Police During Mountain Drug Raid.  The AP (9/27, Toro) reports, "Seven helicopter gunships skirted the steep mountainsides, then quickly descended on a cocaine lab, marked by a smoke grenade thrown by one of the raiders.  As the heavily armed anti-narcotics police jumped from the hovering craft, accompanied by an informant wearing a ski mask, peasants who worked the coca fields and in the complex scampered away.  Associated Press journalists accompanied the officers on the lightning raid Saturday, allowing them to see firsthand the type of dangerous operation that has put a crimp in Colombia's cocaine production."  The AP adds, "So far this year, raids have destroyed 100 labs that convert coca paste -- made from the leaves of the coca bush -- into cocaine, said Col. Alvaro Velandia, deputy director of Colombia's anti-narcotics police.  Saturday's raid in the mountains of southwestern Colombia showed that precise intelligence, coordination between police and helicopter squadrons and swift action are needed to destroy the drug labs, often located in remote, rugged regions teeming with Marxist rebels, who make huge profits by controlling the drug trade."

Colombian Authorities Arrest Eleven Nicaraguans In Arms-For-Drugs Deal.  Reuters (9/26) reports, "Eleven former Nicaraguan soldiers and guerrillas were arrested in Colombia on Saturday for trying to supply the country's left-wing rebels with arms in exchange for drugs, police said."  National Police Chief Jorge Daniel Castro said, "We broke up a group of arms traffickers, made up of ex-soldiers and guerrillas from Nicaragua, that was dealing with illegal groups, particularly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, with this exchange of drugs for arms."  Reuters adds, "News of the arrests came hours after Colombian officials seized two tons of cocaine, valued at about $40 million, in the Pacific port of Buenaventura." 

 

Latino Gangs Have Grown Into Deadly International Problem.  The New York Times (9/26, Thompson) reports, "gang members, known...as 'maras,' after a species of swarming ants over the last decade...have spread like a scourge across Central America, Mexico and the United States, setting off a catastrophic crime wave that has turned dirt-poor neighborhoods into combat zones and an equally virulent crackdown that has left thousands of gang members dead, in hiding, in jail or heading to the United States.  The authorities estimate there are 70,000 to 100,000 gang members across Central America and Mexico. In the last decade, gangs have killed thousands of people, sowing new fear in a region still struggling to overcome civil wars that ended just a decade ago. Gangs have replaced guerrillas as public enemy No. 1." The Times reports, "The presidents of Honduras and El Salvador have called the gangs as big a threat to national security as terrorism is to the United States. They have revived old counterinsurgency strategies and adopted zero-tolerance laws known as Mano Dura, which loosely translates as 'firm hand,' that bypass basic rules of due process and allow them to send young men to prison for nothing more than a gang tattoo."

Bush Foreign Policy Said To Divide US, Latin America.  Author Carlos Fuentes writes in a Los Angeles Times (9/26) op-ed, "The United States is strong. Latin America is weak. This is the basic truth that shapes their relationship. There is no irrational animosity toward the U.S. in Latin America. There is a measure of suspicion balanced by enormous admiration for the culture...Nor is there envy of the United States. Latin America is deeply aware of its cultural values. Our personality is not assailed by gringo fashions. We absorb and adapt to the cultures of the world, including that of the U.S. The problem lies in foreign policy. Too often, the United States is seen as a benevolent Dr. Jekyll at home and a malevolent Mr. Hyde abroad." Fuentes argues, "This brings us to what Latin Americans find so shocking about the Bush administration. Instead of multilateralism, unilateralism. Instead of diplomacy and negotiation and a search for consensus and the use of force only as a last resort, the barbaric principle of preventive war. ...  What is alarming about the Bush administration is its formal denunciation of the basic rules of international intercourse. With us or against us, President Bush declares starkly and simplistically. The U.S. acts according to its own interests, 'not those of an illusory international community,' asserts national security advisor Condoleezza Rice." Fuentes concludes, "But while not forgetting these mistakes and deceptions, we would put the accent on the restoration of the rule of law, the thrust of cooperation and the attention due to 3 billion human beings living in poverty, ignorance and illness. When Bush and his bellicose minions are gone, these problems will still be around. We in Latin America should try to bring them forward as the real agenda for this troubling century."

DEA, Philippine Authorities Dismantle International "Shabu" Syndicate.  The Cebu (Philippines) Freeman News (9/26, Perolina, Languido) reports, "President Arroyo sneaked unannounced into Cebu yesterday for a brief 15-minute inspection of three clandestine shabu laboratories and warehouses uncovered in a series of coordinated raids by Philippine and US drug enforcement agents.  The raids that began Friday in Mandaue City were believed to have busted an international syndicate following the arrest of eight foreigners and three Filipinos and the seizure of more than a ton of shabu worth at least a billion pesos, making the haul the biggest ever in Cebu. Hong Kong police were said to have conducted their own raids simultaneous with the raids in Mandaue City as part of a coordinated international anti-drug effort.  Arrested in the Mandaue City raids were three Chinese nationals, two Taiwanese, two Malaysians, a Briton, and three Filipinos identified as Joseph Yu, Allan Yap Garcia, and Joseph Lopez."  The Freeman News adds, "They were presented in a press conference by an impressive array of top law enforcement officials led by PNP chief Edgardo Aglipay, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Anselmo Avenido, Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force chief General Ricardo de Leon, PDEA regional director Amado Marquez, PNP regional director Rolando Garcia and United States Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Timothy Teal, whose team supported the raid.  Aglipay said information about the presence of a huge clandestine drug laboratory in the Visayas that possibly involved an international syndicate started to trickle in as early as last year and the Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force began to process the information and shared it with US authorities, learning in the process that the US DEA was already on to the information.  From that liaison was hatched a plan for a joint operation." 

The Philippine Star (9/37, Mendez) reports, "The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is working double time to arrest the major financier and operator of the shabu laboratory in Mandaue City in Cebu that yielded P1.3 billion worth of the drug in a raid over the weekend.  The PDEA and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are closely coordinating with the Hong Kong police to pin down the Hong Kong-based laboratory operator, said Senior Superintendent Lina Sarmiento, PDEA operations chief and project officer of the latest drug haul.  Eight foreigners and three of their Filipino accomplices were arrested during last Friday's raid on one of the biggest clandestine drug laboratories in the country. Subsequent raids uncovered other laboratories and warehouses in Barangays Pakna-an and Lo-oc, also in Mandaue.  Sarmiento said the PDEA is set to file today criminal charges against the operator and financier of the drug laboratory, owners of the warehouses and the 11 arrested men before the Mandaue regional trial court."  The Star adds, "Representatives from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency under attaché Timothy Teal are in Cebu City to assist the PDEA and the PNP in conducting a complete analysis of the different types of equipment and raw materials used in the manufacture of shabu." 

The Manila Bulletin (9/26, Ilagan) reports, "Officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) yesterday announced the arrest of 11 suspected members of a drug syndicate, eight of them foreign nationals, following the discovery of a shabu laboratory -- considered the biggest drug warehouse uncovered by authorities in the Southeast Asian region -- in Mandaue City.  In his report to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, PDEA Director General Anselmo Avenido Jr. said the police operatives also recovered at least 675 kilograms of shabu from the clandestine laboratory located in a warehouse. ...  Avenido said the laboratory can manufacture millions of pesos worth of shabu based on the bulk of drug-making chemicals and laboratory equipment that were seized from the warehouse."  The Bulletin adds, "The raid was conducted by joint elements of the PDEA and the PNP based on a search warrant issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Natividad Giron-Dizon.  Avelino also said that the police operation was conducted in coordination with officials of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (USDEA) led by Country Attache Special Agent Timothy Teal.  Police authorities said that they have been receiving reports of a big clandestine factory of shabu that is operating on Cebu Island." 

The Philippines Daily Inquirer (9/26, Bulambot, Papa) reports, "Authorities were so elated over the haul that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cut short her official activities in Albay to fly to Cebu City yesterday to personally congratulate the raiding team and to inspect the laboratories and the warehouse.  The President has made fighting illegal drugs a priority in her anti-crime campaign and last year set aside a P1-billion war chest for it. Avenido said the raid was conducted in coordination with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and capped a month-long surveillance."

The Cebu (Philippines) Freeman News (9/27, Perolina) reports, "Police now believe that one of the eight foreigners arrested with three Filipinos in a series of raids on clandestine shabu laboratories in Mandaue City on Friday and Saturday is the ringleader of a transnational drug syndicate based in Hong Kong.  Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Anselmo Avenido yesterday said authorities have now concluded that Hung Chin Chang, a British citizen of Chinese descent, is the leader of the group....   Avenido said the raids were part of a coordinated transnational swoop on illegal drugs involving the US Drug Enforcement Agency and Hong Kong police and that at the time they were made, authorities in Hong Kong were also closing in on Chang's drug warehouses there.  No information was immediately available on the outcome of the Hong Kong operation." 

Team Of DEA Experts To Examine Chemicals Seized During Raids.  The Philippines News-Inquirer (9/27, Esguerra, Napallacan) reports, "Anti-narcotics authorities from the United States and five Asian countries have expressed keen interest in the mammoth drug seizure in Cebu province on Friday, where a billion pesos worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu was discovered in a secret laboratory.  A team of experts from the US Drug Enforcement Administration will arrive soon to examine the chemicals and shabu-making equipment found in three separate warehouses in Mandaue City, said Deputy Director General Ricardo de Leon, head of the police task force against illegal drugs.  Other Southeast Asian countries will also send their own teams to check on the laboratories, one of which yielded 1.3 billion pesos worth of high-grade shabu, De Leon said.  He added, "They know how important the discoveries were, considering the quality of shabu and the sophisticated equipment found."  The News Inquirer adds, "The raided shabu lab is believed to be one of the biggest such laboratories in the Philippines,  if not in Southeast Asia." 

 

Canadian Regulators Discover 100 Large-Scale Marijuana Grow-Ops In Mortgage-Scam Probe.  The Vancouver Sun (9/25, Bolan) reports, "Up to 100 large-scale marijuana growing operations have been found in Lower Mainland houses identified by government regulators as part of an elaborate scheme to get mortgages by using false employment records and banking documents, The Vancouver Sun has learned. Police and regulators are concerned the fraudulent securing of mortgages with the alleged assistance of some realtors is part of a coordinated effort by organized criminals to purchase grow-op houses for the thriving B.C. marijuana trade.  The RCMP is now examining the links between a mortgage broker, a pair of real estate agents currently under investigation and these properties.  The RCMP probe was triggered by an investigation by the Financial Institutions Commission into more than 900 mortgages brokered by Danh Van Nguyen, who had been running a company called Express Mortgages Ltd.  RCMP Inspector Paul Nadeau said Friday about 10 percent of the houses in the Nguyen files seized by FICom investigators in March 2003 ere confirmed as grow-ops.'  Nguyen was found by FICom Aug. 30 to have breached mortgage broker regulations by fabricating employment records, with inflated incomes, to help some clients qualify for mortgages. His penalty hearing is to be held Oct. 18.  Nguyen still proclaims his innocence, claiming he was not involved in a scheme to write bogus letters. Some of the documents found on his computer when it was seized last year were merely the result of his wife helping clients writing letters they were to get their employers to sign, he claimed Friday."

Marijuana Growers Recruit Rural Quebec High School Students To Pick Illicit Plants.  CTV.ca (9/20) reports, "Some high school students in rural Quebec are being recruited for work as part-time marijuana pickers.  They are being lured to pick the illicit plants, often hidden in corn fields, by the growers who are often associated with organized crime.  It often consumes two to three days of their week -- causing them to skip school in the process, said Claude Bernier, principal of a local high school in the region southeast of Montreal.  If they aren't picking, they're on guard keeping locals away from the crop.  The mayor said the growers give 14-year-olds an all-terrain vehicle, a cellphone and pay them $25 per hour in cash.  The high pay is creating a local labor shortage in traditional student jobs like washing dishes."  Police said that "growers take over patches of farmers' fields and then intimidate the landowners into silence." 
 

CBC News (9/19) reports, "A school principal in central Quebec says he worries the marijuana harvest is keeping his students out of the classroom.  Claude Bernier says the teenagers he's talking about are not smoking pot - they're being hired by drug dealers to cut it down.  Bernier estimates at least 20 students at Jean-Nicolet high school are spending more time sneaking around in corn fields than they are studying in classrooms.  He says the teenagers have told him that missed time picking pot is worth the money.  Students report earning between $20 and $30 an hour harvesting marijuana at illegal plantations, far more than they would make working in local stores."

Annual White House Report Calls Canada's Marijuana Reform Legislation "Troublesome."  The Canadian Press (9/18) reports, "An annual White House report on countries with drug problems says Canada's relatively lax penalties for marijuana producers and moves toward decriminalizing pot could be an "invitation" to organized crime that hinders police and prosecutors.  Canada isn't on the president's list of 22 major illicit drug-producing and transit countries, which includes Mexico and some South American countries that supply the vast majority of drugs to the United States.  But the report cited Canada's 'lack of significant judicial sanctions against marijuana producers' and marijuana reform legislation as troublesome."  The White House release said, "We are now working intensively with Canadian authorities to address the increase in the smuggling of Canadian-produced marijuana into the United States."  The report noted that "Canada, in turn, has expressed concern about the flow of cocaine and other illegal substances from the US."  The release said, "The two governments will continue to work closely in the year ahead to confront these shared threats."  The CP adds, "Officials in President George W. Bush's administration have long complained that Canadian regulations, which allow marijuana use for medical purposes, are increasing the pot problem.  Under the federal marijuana medical access regulation, Canadians can be authorized to grow, possess and use marijuana."

Customers Continue To Flock To Controversial Vancouver Marijuana Compassion Club.  The Toronto Star (9/18, Girard) reports, "In a city that has earned the nickname Vansterdam because of its liberal views on marijuana, a shop openly selling renowned B.C. bud is hardly big news.  But the Da Kine Food and Beverage Shop has been grabbing headlines for a couple weeks now as dozens of people file through its storefront on the city's Commercial Dr. and plunk down $10 a gram for marijuana or pick up some pot-laced baked goods.  Even after police raided the shop last week and arrested eight staff members, including owner and marijuana advocate Carol Gwilt, and charged them with trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking, it's been business as usual.  Customers, who have to prove they are at least 19, have been flocking to the shop in such great numbers since police confiscated Da Kine's stash and about $70,000 in cash that buyers this week were being restricted to a maximum of two grams for $20.  Customers have to show a Health Canada exemption allowing them to possess and consume small quantities of marijuana for medical reasons.  Those who can't can simply register inside the shop and sign a form saying the pot is being used to alleviate some kind of symptom, condition or disease.  An estimated 10,000 people have done so."  The Star adds, "Although police raided the shop and continue to monitor its operations closely, they say closing it down is a matter for the city.  A council meeting is set for next month into Da Kine's license, which was issued in May.  The police also dismiss suggestions that the Da Kine is a small-time compassion club dispensing marijuana to those legally entitled to possess it, and instead call it 'a drug house and a very significant operation.'  They note that when it was raided none of the more than three dozen people inside had federal exemptions to be using pot."