After the Indian Coast Guard and Sri Lankan Excise Department’s recent seizures of methamphetamine, along with consignments of heroin, enforcement agencies are now highly suspicious that cross-border smuggling of the drugs being prepared using ephedrine extracted from Ephedra plants in Afghanistan is on the rise.
A few weeks ago, four persons were arrested in Sri Lanka, after 100 kg of heroine and 100 kg of crystal methamphetamine were seized from them. “We have learnt that the contraband comprising ‘organic meth’ was transported on board a fishing boat from Pakistan and then transferred to another boat mid-sea,” said a Customs official.
The Indian Coast Guard had seized about 20 kg of meth, along with 100 kg of heroin, from a Sri Lankan boat in the high seas off the Thoothukudi coast in Tamil Nadu. In this case also, the consignment had been transferred from a Pakistani dhow to the boat.
“The meth being seized of late is suspected to have been prepared using the precursor, ephedrine, extracted from Ephedra. The production capability in Afghanistan is currently not much and the meth’s quality is also low. There are indications that sophisticated labs are being set up in parts of Pakistan for mass production of high purity meth,” the official said.
“Most consignments were originating from the Makran coast in Pakistan, which extends from Karachi to Gwadar. This ‘organic meth’ is in high demand in countries like Australia. A matter of grave concern is that an already well-established route for heroin trafficking across the world is being used to push it”, the official noted.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, in a statement on November 24, also highlighted the increasing reports of meth linked to Afghanistan being seized in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia and countries in Africa.
The EU4Monitoring Drugs Special Report is titled “Emerging evidence of Afghanistan’s role as a producer and supplier of ephedrine and methamphetamine”.
Expressing concern that the meth industry was taking hold in Afghanistan, the report said it had the potential to become a significant producer of meth, with large quantities of low-cost ephedrine (extracted from Ephedra plants) and meth being produced there.
The research’s scope is limited to Bakwa (Afghanistan), where the existing ephedrine extraction sites are estimated to have the capacity to produce around 98 tonnes of ephedrine a month, which could generate around 65 tonne of crystal meth a month.
“Around 500 methamphetamine laboratories would be needed to process this amount of the drug. It is unlikely that there are this many methamphetamine laboratories in Bakwa itself, and reports of ephedrine being shipped to other provinces, or being seized on the Afghan-Iranian border, suggest that production may be taking place in other parts of Afghanistan or in neighbouring countries. Among the destinations of Afghan methamphetamine cited in the report are neighbouring Iran and Pakistan,” it said.