Opium threat looms over Gulf



“This year has seen the biggest-ever cultivation of opium in Afghanistan,” said Mark Stanley, a senior UN official, and the International Project Coordinator for the Doha-based Gulf Centre for Criminal Intelligence, told The Peninsula in Doha yesterday

The Gulf region is one of the transit points for drug smuggling into Western Europe through the sea. Synthetic drugs are particularly a flourishing illicit trade in south-eastern Europe from where it is smuggled into the rest of the world.

Afghanistan has cultivated 193,000 hectares of opium poppy this year, an increase of 17 per cent over last year. The amount of Afghan land used for opium is now larger than the total used for coca cultivation in Latin America (Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia combined), according to the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007, which was carried out by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Stanley spoke to The Peninsula before the opening of a five-day event called “the first international training course in drug prevention", organized by the Permanent Committee for Drugs and Alcohol (PCDA) at the Marriot Hotel.

Mohammed Mubarak Al Khulaifi, Director of Drugs Prevention Department, said the course aimed at enhancing the efficiency of people working in the field. It is an attempt to equip and train them on the latest developments in the area of drug trafficking, money laundering and the role of international agreements and intelligence information.

The opening ceremony was attended by Staff General Saad bin Jassim Al Khulaifi, PCDA Chairman and Director General of Public Security, and around 32 people took part in the course.

Stanley is here to assist in the development of a state-of-the-art criminal intelligence centre in Doha to help the GCC countries combat drug trafficking and other organized crimes.

Asked why Qatar was chosen as the venue for this centre, he said the country provided the fund for its establishment. The centre will begin functioning from early next year. “It is a four-year project.”

He added that the role of UNODC is to provide technical help for the centre. The proposed centre will help law enforcement authorities in the region share real-time operational intelligence and improve their ability to arrest drug traffickers.

The centre will be coordinating with all international organizations including the European Police Office (Europol), Interpol, and the Central Asian Regional information and Intelligence Centre.

Asked if organized crime was a concern for the Gulf region, he said it was a global concern. There is a risk here due to the economic boom.


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