Chemical diversion control is a proactive and straightforward strategy to deny traffickers the chemicals they must have to manufacture illicit drugs. It involves the regulation of licit commerce in the chemicals most necessary for drug manufacture to ensure that only transactions for which legitimate end-uses have been established are permitted to proceed, thereby preventing the diversion of drug-producing chemicals from licit trade to illicit drug manufacture. Chemical control is a cost-effective strategy to prevent the manufacture of illicit drugs through the regulation of licit commerce.
There is widespread international commerce in many of the chemicals required for illicit drug manufacture. Many of them have extensive commercial applications and are available from numerous source countries. Therefore, an essential element of effective international chemical control is rapid international exchange of information between competent national authorities on proposed transactions in regulated chemicals in order to identify and stop or seize those shipments involving chemicals likely to be diverted to illicit drug manufacture. National control systems alone cannot prevent diversion.
The U.S. continues to seek the establishment of formal and informal multilateral mechanisms for this information exchange.
Chemical control is a strategy to prevent a crime. It requires the examination of proposed commercial transactions, the bulk of which are legitimate—an examination that requires chemical manufacturers and traders to provide commercial information to the exporting country's authorities. These authorities must share at least a portion of this information with other governments to ascertain the legitimacy of the proposed end-use, and to prevent traffickers from turning to alternative chemical source countries when transactions in one country are denied.
Many governments consider chemical control a trade issue to be handled by trade ministries/agencies with a bias towards promoting, not regulating trade. If these ministries do not allow sufficient scope for regulatory and law enforcement measures in support of chemical control, they may unwittingly undermine this effective antidrug strategy. Trade ministry tends to reinforce the reluctance of companies to share information with their governments that will in turn be shared with other governments, for fear of its reaching competitors. This concern is unfounded. There is no evidence that the substantial multilateral chemical information exchange system now in place has been abused by states or firms to gain competitive advantage.
To be effective, multilateral chemical control mechanisms must provide for the exchange of information necessary for the full implementation of national chemical control regimes, including procedures for identifying and bringing under control substitute chemicals, while respecting the legitimate commercial interests involved. A key element is greater recognition that chemical control is also a law enforcement strategy to be administered in cooperation with law enforcement agencies to curb criminal activity.
To reinforce these multilateral mechanisms, countries must also establish effective national chemical control regimes, with administrative structures to support them.
International Framework for Chemical Control
The need for chemical control has been internationally accepted. Article 12 of the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988 UN Drug Convention) establishes the obligation and international standards for parties to the Convention to control their chemical commerce to prevent diversion to illicit drug manufacture and to cooperate with one another. The two tables of the Annex to the Convention list 22 chemicals as those most necessary for drug manufacture and, therefore, subject to control.
In 1990, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Organization of American States (CICAD) approved Model Regulations for the control of drug-related chemicals that set a high standard for government action. In June 1999, the Model Regulations were updated to cover all the chemicals included in the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and to strengthen domestic and international chemical controls and enforcement provisions and authorities. Many Latin American countries have adopted chemical control laws and regulations based on the CICAD Model Regulations.
The United States and other governments use the annual meetings of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to promote international acceptance of chemical control and to highlight emerging chemical control concerns. The CND is also used to focus international attention on the use by traffickers of substitute chemicals in place of those controlled under international conventions, particularly in the manufacture of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine.
The June 1998 "United Nations General Assembly Special Session Devoted to Countering the World Drug Problem Together" (UNGASS) was an important vehicle for promoting chemical control. Two of the five action plans adopted by the Special Session—those dealing with amphetamine-type stimulants and their precursors and the control of precursors—were directly connected to chemical control.
The U.S. has a chemical control agreement with the European Union, signed on May 28, 1997. It is particularly valuable in that it involves a 15-Member State organization representing many of the world's major chemical manufacturing and trading nations. It also importantly provides for the exchange of information on chemical transactions with third countries.
In 2000, Mexico and the United States initialed a Memorandum of Understanding on chemical control. The Memorandum awaits formal signature.
The huge trade in chemicals, both domestic and international, offers multiple opportunities for traffickers to obtain through diversion from legitimate commerce the chemicals they require. They use a variety of tactics, exploiting legal and regulatory weaknesses, to circumvent national chemical control laws and regulations. The following are some of the more common diversion methods.
Chemicals are diverted from domestic chemical production to illicit in-country drug manufacture. This requires the domestic capacity to manufacture the needed chemicals, coupled with poor domestic controls on them.
Chemicals are imported legally into drug-producing countries with official import permits and subsequently diverted. The failure of importing countries adequately to investigate legitimate end-use before issuing import permits, and the acceptance by exporting countries of import permits as sufficient proof of legitimate end-use without any effort at independent verifications make this possible.
Chemicals are manufactured in or imported by one country, diverted from domestic commerce, and smuggled into neighboring drug-producing countries. Inadequate internal and import controls and weak border security make this type of diversion possible.
Chemicals are mislabeled throughout a transaction, either domestic or international, as non-controlled chemicals. In this case, the diversion takes place at the manufacturer or distributor level. Poor domestic controls that permit the initial diversion, coupled with the inability of enforcement officials to verify the true nature of the chemicals, permit this form of diversion.
Chemicals are shipped to countries or regions where no systems exist for their control. This occurs because some chemical source countries do not insist that exports of controlled chemicals be only to countries that have in place viable, countrywide regulatory systems.
These tactics are masked by the use of front companies, false invoicing, multiple transshipments, use of free trade zones, and any other device that will conceal the true nature of the product, its ultimate recipient or its final end-use.
There is some recycling of the solvents used in illicit drug manufacture; recycling cannot be used for acids, alkaline materials or oxidizing agents. Since recycling requires some sophistication, and there is a loss of chemical with each recycling process, it is not a preferred method for unsophisticated heroin and cocaine laboratories. The chemicals used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs such methamphetamine and ecstasy can not be recycled.
2000 Chemical Diversion Trends
Recognition of the importance of chemical tracking operations was one of the major developments in chemical diversion control in 2000. In such operations, chemical producing, exporting, transit, and importing countries cooperate in tracking shipments of key drug precursor chemicals to prevent their diversion. To be effective, tracking operations must be directed at a chemical central to the manufacture of illicit drugs and difficult to substitute in the manufacturing process. They must also include the participation of all the major countries involved in that chemical's production, trade and ultimate end-use.
Operation Purple, a voluntary initiative launched in 1999 to track shipments over 100 kilograms of the key cocaine precursor potassium permanganate, demonstrated the effectiveness of this strategy. In the first eight months of 2000, Operation Purple tracked 597 shipments totaling over 16,000,000 kilograms of potassium permanganate. Of these, 51 shipments were stopped or seized. In 1999, from its inception on April 15 through the end of the year, the figures were 248 shipments tracked, totaling 7,778,000 kilograms, and 32 shipments stopped or seized. During 2000, participation in Operation Purple grew from 18 to 28 countries, ICPO/INTERPOL, and the World Customs Organization. The UN International Narcotics Control Board has assumed the role of central coordinator of the operation.
One indication of the impact of Operation Purple is chemical analysis of recent cocaine seizures showing that only eight percent were highly oxidized. Formerly, 80-90 percent was in the highly oxidized range. Potassium permanganate is needed for oxidation. Highly oxidized cocaine is very white and fluffy. Lower oxidation results in a dark, lumpy and less attractive product. Another indication is that traffickers are attempting to manufacture their own potassium permanganate. In 2000, three clandestine potassium permanganate laboratories were uncovered in Colombia.
The Precursor Chemical Action Plan, adopted by the June 1988 UNGASS, identified potassium permanganate and acetic anhydride for controls stricter than those required by the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Specifically, exporting countries would be required to provide pre-export notification of any shipment of the chemical when requested by the importing country. This provision was a major factor in gaining initial acceptance of Operation Purple. Its subsequent success is increasing acceptance and participation.
The U.S. introduced a resolution, adopted by the March 2000 UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, that lauded the success of Operation Purple, urged increased participation, and suggested a similar initiative be considered for the key heroin precursor chemical acetic anhydride. The special mention of the chemical in the UNGASS action plan was important to the resolution's adoption.
In response, the UN International Narcotics Control Board in October 2000 organized a meeting of chemical diversion experts in Antalya, Turkey to consider a tracking operation for acetic anhydride. Turkey hosted the meeting, assisted in its organization and provided generous support. The meeting noted the differences between potassium permanganate and acetic anhydride: acetic anhydride is more widely manufactured, has more commercial uses, and is traded more extensively in international markets. Also, heroin is manufactured in more areas of the world, whereas cocaine manufacture is concentrated in the Andean region.
The meeting decided, despite the greater difficulties, to proceed with an acetic anhydride tracking operation modeled on Operation Purple, called Operation Topaz. A steering group subsequently elected India and the United Kingdom as co-chairs, established 100 liters as the minimum shipment size to be tracked, and agreed to begin the operation on March 1, 2001.
In 2000, Afghanistan solidified its position as the world's largest producer of heroin. As part of a concerted effort to curb this production, the U.S. proposed a provision in a UN Security Council sanctions resolution prohibiting the "sale, supply or transfer" of acetic anhydride to the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. Since Afghanistan today has no legitimate industrial requirements for acetic anhydride, shipments of the chemical reaching the country are being used for heroin manufacture. The resolution as adopted (UNSCR 1333) included the U.S proposal. While this will not stop chemical smuggling, it puts acetic anhydride producing, trading and transit countries on notice that they should not authorize exports of the chemical to, or permit its transit through their territories to the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan.
The continuing growth in the abuse of synthetic drugs such as amphetamine-type-stimulants (ATS) and ecstasy was noted by the July 2000 G-8 Summit held in Okinawa, Japan. Abuse of ecstasy is more prevalent in Europe, while ATS abuse is more so in Asia and North America, although ecstasy abuse is also rising in these regions. The summit leaders called for an expert level meeting to consider the problem. Japan organized and hosted the meeting in December 2000. In addition to G-8 members, experts from the European Union and the United Nations International Drug Control Program participated.
The G-8 experts identified chemical control as a major countermeasure against synthetic drug manufacture and trafficking. Among the measures considered were a tracking operation for key synthetic drug precursor chemicals, greater cooperation with industry in identifying suspicious orders, and the rapid multilateral sharing of information to identify non-controlled chemicals being substituted for controlled chemicals in the illicit synthetic drug manufacture. G-8 members intend to use the annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting (March 2001) to promote these ideas in this larger forum of countries most concerned with drug issues.
The Road Ahead
The development of tracking operations targeting specific chemicals has increased acceptance of chemical diversion control as an important counternarcotics strategy. Their success, and the fact of little or no opposition from industry, is also muting the reluctance of some governments, on commercial grounds, to exchange information on international chemical transactions.
Operation Purple, tracking potassium permanganate, needs to be expanded in 2001 to include non-participating countries now receiving increased shipments of potassium permanganate. Operation Topaz, the new operation to track acetic anhydride, needs to be promoted to encourage widespread participation. The recommendations resulting from the G-8 experts meeting in Japan on synthetic drugs need to be promoted during the March 2001 Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting. That session will also be an opportunity to stress the ban on acetic anhydride shipments to Afghanistan under the UN Security Council Taliban sanctions resolution, and to exchange ideas on how to make it most effective.
The focus on specific chemicals, however, should not be at the expense of attention to the other chemicals included in the 1988 UN Drug Convention. The need for adequate controls on all chemicals included in the 1988 UN Drug Convention remains a priority. More work also needs to be done at the national and international level in the identification and control of substitute chemicals, particularly those used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs.
Major Chemical Source Countries
The countries discussed in this section are those with large chemical manufacturing and trading industries that have significant trade with drug-producing regions, and those countries with significant chemical commerce susceptible to diversion domestically and smuggling into neighboring drug-producing countries. Designation as a major chemical source country does not indicate a country lacks adequate chemical control legislation and the ability to enforce it. Rather, it recognizes that the volume of chemical trade with drug-producing regions, or proximity to them, makes these countries the sources of the greatest quantities of chemicals liable to diversion.
Many other countries manufacture and trade in precursor chemicals, but not on the scale, or with the broad range of precursor chemicals, of the countries in this section. These designations are reviewed annually. The United States, with its large chemical industry and extensive trade with drug-producing regions, is included this year.
Article 12 of the 1988 UN Drug Convention is the international standard for national chemical control regimes and for international cooperation in their implementation. The Annex to the Convention lists the 22 chemicals most essential to illicit drug manufacture. The Convention includes provisions for maintaining records on transactions involving such chemicals, and provides for their seizure if there is sufficient evidence that they are intended for illicit drug manufacture.
Argentina has a well-developed chemical industry that exports to customers throughout Latin America. The industry produces most of the chemicals required for cocaine manufacture, the exceptions being potassium permanganate and chloroform. Argentina is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. A 1989 law meets the Convention's requirements for record keeping, import and export licensing, and the authority to suspend shipments. Presidential decrees in 1991 and 1996 added the requirement that all manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors, and transporters be registered with the Secretariat for the Prevention of Drug Addiction and Narcotics Trafficking (SEDRONAR).
Until recently, not much was done to verify the bona fides of chemical transfers. SEDRONAR remains short of resources and little is done to verify the legitimacy of transactions in controlled chemicals. There have been very few investigations into suspicious chemical transfers. SEDRONAR, however, has begun to rebuild a national database of producers and distributors to gain a better understanding of the scope of the problem and has formed an eight-person chemical investigative unit.
The Buenos Aires Provincial Police also regard chemical enforcement as a significant priority and have taken the initiative in establishing a chemical import/export information base.
In 1999, a large seizure of Argentine chemicals was made in Bolivia and an additional 25,000 liters of acetone were seized at the border between Argentina and Bolivia. Seizures were down in 2000 to 2,702 liters.
Argentine authorities share chemical control information with U.S. officials on request. Argentina has also proposed to its neighbors that they work more closely together to monitor flows of chemicals in the region.
Brazil has South America's largest chemical industry. In addition, it imports significant quantities of chemicals to meet its industrial needs.
Brazil ratified the 1988 UN Drug Convention in 1991, but it has not yet adopted legislation necessary to fully implement it. National chemical control laws require registration with the Federal Narcotics Police of chemical producers, transporters and distributors. A 1995 law places 11 chemicals under federal control (24 more are under consideration), sets minimum thresholds for record keeping and reporting of transactions in them, and provides for import and export licenses. There are substantial administrative penalties for non-compliance. While compliance with the permit process appears to be widespread, a lack of resources hinders active follow-up on shipments. Authorities are largely dependent on chemical companies for information on shipments of controlled chemicals such as acetone and either to neighboring Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.
The Brazilian Federal Police have initiated several programs aimed at controlling and preventing diversion of chemicals from Brazil to neighboring cocaine producing countries. The police have also organized precursor chemical training courses, including a one-week course conducted by DEA, and have initiated cyclical audits and investigations of Brazilian chemical firms. The police believe some trafficking organizations may be investing in cocaine processing labs in Brazil to process coca leaf and/or cocaine base smuggled from neighboring countries using chemicals diverted from Brazilian domestic commerce.
Brazil has established procedures under which records of transactions of precursor and essential chemicals can be made available to other countries' law enforcement authorities. The U.S./Brazilian Counternarcotics Agreement provides the formal basis for bilateral cooperation in chemical control, including information sharing. Brazil also participates in Operation Purple, the multilateral potassium permanganate tracking operation, and will participate in Operation Topaz, the new acetic anhydride tracking operation.
Mexico has major chemical manufacturing and trading industries that produce, import or export most of the chemicals necessary for illicit drug manufacture. Mexico is an importer and transit country for potassium permanganate from Asia to other Latin American countries. It is an important entry and transit point for ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenypropanolamine used in the illicit manufacture of amphetamine-type-stimulants in Mexico and the U.S.
Comprehensive chemical control legislation adopted in 1997 places 24 chemicals under government regulation: 13 precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs and 11 essential chemicals used in refining opium and coca leaf into heroin and cocaine. In September 1999, implementing regulations were published which defined reporting and notification requirements for both the import and export of these chemicals, explained what constituted end-use, and authorized Mexican government agencies to share information with other governments. These laws and regulations meet the requirements of the 1988 UN Drug Convention to which Mexico is a party.
The U.S. and Mexico have established a bilateral chemical control working group as a formal mechanism for cooperation and information exchange in chemical control matters. In 2000, the group focused on drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two governments to formalize information exchange. The MOU was initialed as an indication of agreement in principle, but not signed by both governments during the August 8, 2000 meeting of the High Level Contact Group. Mexico is a participant in Operation Purple, the multilateral initiative targeting potassium permanganate, and exchanges information on transactions in that chemical within the context of the operation.
Although a comprehensive regulatory and penal regime is in place for chemicals, enforcement is weak. Chemical investigations are splintered among eight government entities, leading to information gaps, duplication of effort, and lack of accountability. The lack of field inspections and investigations makes identification and prosecution of violators difficult.
The United States
The United States manufactures and/or trades in all 22 chemicals listed in the Annex to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. It is a party to the Convention and has laws and regulations meeting its chemical control provisions.
The basic U.S. chemical control law is the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act of 1988. This law and three subsequent chemical control amendments were all designed as amendments to the U.S. controlled substances laws rather than stand-alone legislation and are administered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In addition to registration and record keeping requirements, the legislation requires traders to file an import/export declaration at least 15 days prior to shipment of regulated chemicals. DEA uses the 15-day period to determine if the consignee has a legitimate need for the chemical. Chemical diversion investigators are assigned to DEA offices in 10 key countries and one at INTERPOL to assist in determining legitimate end-use. In other countries, DEA agents perform this task. The diversion investigators and agents work closely with host country officials in this process. If legitimate end-use cannot be determined, the legislation gives DEA the authority to stop shipments.
The legislation also requires chemical traders to report to DEA suspicious transactions such as those involving extraordinary quantities, unusual methods of payments, etc. Close cooperation has developed between the U.S. chemical industry and DEA in the course of implementing the legislation.
The U.S. aggressively implements its chemical control system, using the administrative, civil and criminal sanctions available in the law. One operation, Operation Backtrack traces chemicals seized at clandestine laboratories and dumpsites back through the chain of commerce to the businesses and persons who handled the chemicals. In the last four years, the Backtrack enforcement program has supported operations leading to 421 arrests, the seizure of 192.2 million pseudoephedrine tablets (weighing 11.5 metric tons), and the seizure of over $18 million.
DEA actively carries out its responsibility for scrutiny of businesses applying for registration to distribute precursor chemicals. It seeks revocations of the registrations of firms that have repeatedly violated the applicable laws and regulations. Since the beginning of 2000, DEA has initiated 31 administrative procedures to revoke registrations; ten of these firms have either surrendered their registrations, waived a hearing, or abandoned the business.
The U.S. has been active in initiating and supporting cooperative multilateral chemical control initiatives. The United States chaired the G-7 Chemical Action Task Force whose 1990 report established many of the standards and procedures now applied to international chemical control. The Multilateral Chemical Reporting Initiative, which provides the information exchange procedures for subsequent chemical tracking operations, was a U.S. initiative. DEA organized the two international conferences in 1999 that resulted in Operation Purple, the potassium permanganate tracking operation. The U.S. participated in and supported the meeting in 2000 organized by the International Narcotics Control Board to plan Operation Topaz, the acetic anhydride tracking operation.
China has a major chemical industry. It is the world's largest producer of potassium permanganate, a key cocaine essential chemical, and it is a major producer of acetic anhydride and ephedrine, two other important precursor chemicals. The country is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and has regulations for record keeping and import/export controls on the 22 chemicals included in the convention. Several provinces, including Yunnan (which shares a border with Burma), have more stringent controls than called for in the Convention. Yunnan, for example monitors exports of 28 chemicals. China also requests "letters of no objection" from importing countries prior to authorizing exports of methamphetamine precursor chemicals.
China actively cooperates with multilateral initiatives to control chemicals in international commerce, and it has been a strong partner with the U.S. and other countries in implementing a system of notification of duel-use chemicals. It reports the highest number and largest quantities of potassium permanganate shipments to the Operation Purple control system. It will participate in Operation Topaz, the acetic anhydride tracking initiative.
Record seizures in China of amphetamine-type-stimulants (ATS) indicate equally large diversions from domestic commerce of the chemicals required for their manufacture. Diversions from domestic commerce smuggled across China's 2,000 kilometer border with Burma are also a source of the chemicals for Burma's surging ATS manufacture. Domestically diverted acetic anhydride is also reaching Burmese heroin labs.
China cooperates closely with the U.S. on chemical control issues. The two sides have in place a strong pre-export notification system for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Chinese officials routinely take part in chemical control courses sponsored by the Department of State and taught by DEA. Information is exchanged through mechanisms such as Operation Purple and in the course of normal counternarcotics cooperation.
The Indian chemical industry includes large-scale manufacture, consumption and export of chemicals required for illicit drug manufacture. India is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, but it does not have legislation meeting all the Convention's chemical control provisions or covering all 22 chemicals in its annex.
Indian chemical control initiatives concentrate on the chemicals most likely to be diverted, acetic anhydride for heroin manufacture in Afghanistan and neighboring Burma, and ephedrine and pseudoephedrine for amphetamine-type-stimulants in Burma.
Exports of seven important precursor chemicals, including potassium permanganate, used in cocaine manufacture, acetic anhydride, and ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, require a certificate of no-objection from the Central Bureau of Narcotics. Imports of four important chemicals, including acetic anhydride, also require no-objection certificates.
India has made significant progress in controlling the production and export of the chemicals currently regulated. Indian authorities and DEA have a good working relationship. The Indian authorities have been very cooperative with DEA in sharing information from no-objection certificates and verifications of end-users, especially regarding ephedrine and pseudoephedrine and potassium permanganate. India continues to notify DEA of seizures of Indian produced chemicals and to provide samples of seized heroin for analysis as part of DEA's Heroin Signature Program.
India is a participant in the potassium permanganate tracking program, Operation Purple, and co-chairs the steering committee for Operation Topaz, the acetic anhydride tracking program scheduled to begin March 1, 2001.
Chemical diversion control within the European Union (EU) is regulated by two EU regulations binding on all Member States. The first, issued in 1990, meets the chemical control provisions of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. The second, issued in 1992, expanded the first to incorporate the more comprehensive recommendations contained in the 1991 G-7 Chemical Action Task Force Report. The EU regulations include provisions for record keeping on transactions in the chemicals listed in the 1988 UN Drug Convention, require a system of permits or declarations for exports and imports of regulated chemicals, and authorize governments to suspend chemical shipments. EU member states implement the regulations through national laws and regulations.
The EU regulations govern the regulatory aspects of chemical diversion control. Member States are responsible for the criminal aspects, investigating and prosecuting violators of the national laws and regulations implementing the EU regulations.
The U.S./EU Chemical Control Agreement, signed May 28, 1997, is the formal basis for U.S. and EU Member State cooperation in chemical control. The agreement calls for annual meetings of a Joint Chemical Working Group to review implementation of the agreement and to coordinate positions in other areas. The annual meeting has been particularly useful in coordinating national or joint initiatives such as resolutions at the annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
The U.S.'s bilateral chemical control cooperation is also good with the Member States, and many are participating in and actively supporting voluntary initiatives such as the Multilateral Chemical Reporting Initiative, Operation Purple and the new Operation Topaz.
Germany and The Netherlands, with large chemical manufacturing or trading sectors and significant trade with drug-producing areas, are considered the major European chemical source countries. Other European countries have important chemical industries, but the level of chemical trade with drug-producing areas is not as large and broad-scale as that of Germany and The Netherlands.
Germany's large chemical industry manufactures and trades in most of the precursor and essential chemicals used in illicit drug manufacture, making it a target for traffickers seeking chemicals. It is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and its chemical industry complies with government regulations ratified in 1993, which are in accord with the EU regulations and meet convention requirements.
The Federal Police in cooperation with German Customs have a very active joint unit based in Wiesbaden that solely handles chemical diversion investigations. In the last five years, German authorities prevented the diversion of 900 tons of controlled chemicals. In November 2000, German authorities seized 452 kilograms of the ecstasy precursor PMK at the Frankfurt airport.
Germany has been in the forefront of international cooperation in chemical control. It developed and promoted the concept that led to Operation Purple (the potassium permanganate tracking operation) and co-chairs its Steering Committee. Germany actively participated in the organization of Operation Topaz, the acetic anhydride tracking operation scheduled to begin March 1, 2001. U.S. and German delegations work together closely and supportively in international meetings.
A senior DEA chemical diversion investigator was posted to Germany in 1999. The investigator works with the joint police/customs unit. The result is excellent information exchange bilaterally, within the context of the U.S./EU Chemical Control Agreement, and during special operations, such as Operation Purple.
Large volumes of chemicals are traded through The Netherlands into international markets. There are large storage facilities to handle these chemicals, and Rotterdam is the world's busiest port. Transshipments, brokered transactions, rapid changes of ownership, commercial urgency to approve transactions, and other normal commercial activities all contribute to the possibilities for diversion in international trade. The large amount of synthetic drugs produced in The Netherlands indicates that there is domestic diversion or smuggling from abroad to provide the required chemicals.
The Netherlands is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and has legislation meeting the chemical control requirements of the Convention and the EU regulations. A National Coordinating Committee on Chemical Precursors, led by the Ministry of Finance, was established in 1999 to improve cooperation and coordination between the five ministries dealing with chemical control. The Netherlands supports and participates in multilateral chemical control initiatives such as Operations Purple and Topaz.
U.S. and Dutch authorities cooperate closely on bilateral matters, in multilateral operational initiatives and in international meetings such as the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Information is exchanged in the context of the U.S./EU Chemical Control Agreement and informally at the operational level.
Major Heroin and Cocaine Manufacturing Countries
The manufacture of heroin and cocaine requires significant quantities of chemicals. Most major manufacturing countries for these illicit drugs do not produce all the required chemicals, and traffickers must meet the majority of their chemical requirements from external sources. This section summarizes the sources of chemicals used in heroin and cocaine manufacturing countries and their initiatives to control these chemicals.
Afghanistan is the world's largest manufacturer of heroin. The chemicals required for this manufacture must come from abroad. Although Afghanistan is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, there is no viable chemical control system.
Europe, the Central Asian States and India are the principal sources for chemicals, either shipped directly to Afghan entities or to nearby countries and smuggled into Afghanistan. The Central Asian States and Persian Gulf countries have been used as smuggling routes.
The 2000 UN Security Council Taliban sanctions resolution includes a provision prohibiting "the sale, supply or transfer" of acetic anhydride, a key heroin chemical, to the Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. In view of this provision, Afghan traffickers will have to rely increasingly on smuggling to meet their chemical requirements.
Burma is number two in worldwide heroin production after Afghanistan. It is becoming an important manufacturer of amphetamine-type-stimulants (ATS) to meet growing demand, primarily is Southeast Asia. Burma is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, but it does not have a viable system in place to satisfy its chemical control provisions. The bulk of the key chemicals required for illicit drug manufacture, most importantly acetic anhydride for heroin and ephedrine for ATS, are smuggled across porous borders from China and India, where they were diverted from domestic commerce.
Drug traffickers in Bolivia rely largely on chemicals smuggled into the country from neighboring countries to process coca leaf into cocaine products. Diversion from licensed imports is considered small.
Bolivia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and has the legal framework for implementing its chemical control provisions. The Bolivian Police have a highly effective interdiction program which has forced traffickers to rely on inferior substitutes for scarce and expensive smuggled chemicals, and to streamline the base cocaine HCl production process, by omitting or reducing steps such as oxidation which requires potassium permanganate. The result is that average purity levels are decreasing and the final product is being cut with fillers to increase weight. Because of the chemical shortage, Bolivian base is also being smuggled into Brazil for final processing with chemicals diverted from Brazilian domestic commerce.
Bolivia participates in both the Multilateral Chemical Reporting Initiative and Operation Purple.
Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine and an important producer of heroin. This requires chemicals, most of which are imported into the country with facially valid import licenses and subsequently diverted. Lesser amounts are smuggled in from neighboring countries, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Colombia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and the country's chemical control laws meet or exceed the provisions of the Convention. However, the system for issuing import permits weakens implementation. The permits are not reliable proof that the legitimate end-use for controlled chemicals has been verified prior to their issuance. The permits are also issued for lengthy time periods, rather than on a shipment-by-shipment basis. DEA now requires documentation identifying the ultimate consignee and the end-use for all U.S. exports, and transshipments through the U.S., to Colombia of potassium permanganate and the solvents necessary for cocaine production before shipments may proceed.
During 2000, Colombian authorities made further efforts to improve implementation of chemical control laws. In addition to conducting inspections and criminal investigations of registered chemical companies, the Colombian National Police conducted nationwide operations targeting chemical companies authorized to handle potassium permanganate and acetic anhydride, key cocaine and heroin chemicals, in order to determine their legitimate industrial needs. These operations uncovered some instances of diversion, and authorities have taken steps to monitor the quotas of regulated chemicals imported and distributed by Colombia chemical companies.
Colombia participates in Operation Purple, the multilateral potassium permanganate tracking operation, and will participate in Operation Topaz, the acetic anhydride operation. One measure of the success of Operation Purple and the efforts of Colombian authorities was the discovery of three clandestine potassium permanganate production laboratories operated by traffickers to replace the chemicals previously available from other sources.
Most of the chemicals required for cocaine base manufacture, but not cocaine HCl, are produced in Peru. The country is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and has laws meeting its chemical control provisions.
DEA credits Peru with one of the best chemical control systems in Latin America. In 2000, the Peruvian National Police Chemical Control Unit conducted over 1,000 regulatory and criminal investigations of suspected chemical companies, making 41 arrests, seizing over 158 metric tons of controlled precursor chemicals, and closing six chemical companies.
Peru participates in Operation Purple, the potassium permanganate tracking operation. The authorities have made a special effort to track this chemical internally and have detected numerous incidents of diversion, primarily from the mining and poultry industries.