Police action in Croatia resulted in an 11 percent increase in the seizure of illegal drugs, and authorities are following new drugs that are emerging on the market.
By Kruno Kartus for Southeast European Times in Osijek -- 01/09/14
Drug trafficking arrests have increased in the region. [AFP]
Regional police have increased their efforts to terminate the drug trafficking chain that runs through the region, but the advance of new drugs on the market is a continued challenge, experts said.
In mid-June, Croatian police arrested six people in the Dubrovnik area who are suspected of drug dealing. It was a continuation of a series of arrests that police carried out months prior as part of the Gladius 2 action.
In 2013, drug seizures were up 11 percent from 2012 in Croatia. Between 2008 and 2013, police destroyed 8.5 tonnes of drugs.
Drug crime costs Croatia around 100 million euros. The funds are used for police action as well as for the health, rehabilitation and re-socialisation of drug addicts.
However, new substances are appearing on the market, creating fresh challenges for police. The new substances mimic the effects of drugs such as heroin, cocaine and other narcotics.
"With the development of new technologies, drug trends in the EU member states show that the occurrence of so called 'new drugs' is increasingly becoming a threat. These drugs are associated with a number of hazards due to their rapid appearance on the market, the fact that they are not controlled, and that they have pharmacological properties and effects similar to known illegal substances," Sanja Mikulic, deputy director of the Office for Combating Drug Abuse in Croatia, told SETimes.
In Croatia in 2012, five new psychoactive substances in the form of herbal blends, powders or tablets were confiscated. In 2013, an additional 12 new drugs were identified by police. So far this year, four new substances have been noted. Combatting drug abuse and dealing is not just limited to the EU member states, however. In the first half of this year, police in Macedonia repressed six criminal groups.
In April, police closed an international channel for the transport of marijuana from Albania, arresting three Macedonians, including two policemen. Police seized about 300 kilograms of marijuana.
According to the interior ministry, the drug came from Albania on a row boat. The seized drugs have a market value of more than 1 million euros in western Europe, which was the intended destination for the drugs.
In June, the same action resulted in the arrest of another seven people who had 23 kilograms of marijuana in their possession. The drugs were planned to be transported to Croatia, according to the ministry.
Croatia destroyed 8.5 tonnes of illegal drugs between 2008 and 2013. [AFP]
In the first half of this year, "the interior ministry dedicated exceptional attention to fighting the drug trade. Evidence of this includes the repressed six international drug channels, the repressed criminal groups," according to Ivo Kotevski, assistant minister for public relations at the ministery of interior.
The justice system is also increasing its efforts. Measures of criminal prosecution were taken against 404 perpetrators, 253 perpetrators were registered for crimes of production and sale of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors, and 84 perpetrators were reported for performed crimes enabling the use of narcotic drugs. Although Serbia is not a major producer or consumer of drugs, it is one of the countries on the Balkan drug trafficking route that extends through the region to Europe.
"Limited resources are a problem for the Serbian police service. If we manage to solve that, our response in the fight against drug trafficking would be even stronger," Milorad Veljović, the director of the Serbian police, told SETimes.
He said it would help if Serbia established an official agency to fight against drug trafficking.
"However, the bright spot is co-operation with regional police forces from the countries in the region. Otherwise we could not break the chain of drug trafficking," Veljović said.
Co-operation between Serbia and Montenegro resulted in the apprehension of Balkan druglord Darko Saric in March.
Saric's arrest on March 18th in Belgrade was an action that included global police and secret service agencies. He is being charged in Serbia with trafficking 5.7 tonnes of cocaine and laundering at least 22 million euros, Miljko Radisavljevic, Serbia's organised crime prosecutor, said.
Correspondents Marina Stojanovska in Skopje and Bojana Milovanović in Belgrade contributed to this report.
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