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Sentencing postponed as cocaine-smuggling sailboat captain undergoes surgery

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Dance music festivals fuelling rise in ecstasy use among young people in South America, UNODC claims

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ecstasy use among young people in South America

Ecstasy and new psychoactive substances (NPS) that mimic the effects of MDMA are becoming increasingly popular among young people in South America, according to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In the latest edition of its Global SMART Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean, the agency said secondary school pupils and university students are taking the drugs in greater quantities at electronic music festivals.

The report also revealed that some Caribbean countries have experienced an uptick in the use of ecstasy-like substances largely on account of the fact that tourists are bringing the drugs with them while on holiday.

Noting that while seizures of these types of drugs are generally much lower in Latin America and the Caribbean than in North America and Europe, UNODC observes that some countries in the region have seen large amounts of ecstasy-like substances discovered by law enforcement authorities in recent years.

“The market of ecstasy in the region has evolved significantly and has become more complex over time,” the report says.

“Currently, ecstasy is available in two main forms; as tablets containing varying doses of MDMA, ranging from no MDMA at all to high doses, and as powder or in crystalline form.

“Both forms of presentation often contain substances other than MDMA, including NPS with stimulant effects.”

Looking at the emergence of NPS in Latin America and the Caribbean, UNODC said 14 countries in the region have reported the presence of 178 different synthetic drugs belonging to a diverse range of chemical groups over the course of the past decade.

In 2017, more than 60 different NPS were reported to UNODC by nine countries in the region, highlighting the emergence of a trend that the agency said presents a serious threat to public health and challenges for policy makers and law enforcement authorities there.

At the end of last week, UNODC announced that it had donated an on-site drug testing device to law enforcement agencies in Jamaica to help counter the threat of NPS in Latin America and the Caribbean.

After being presented with the device, Cheryl Spencer, UN Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Jamaica, said: “Jamaica regards this support to the country through this device as not only a tangible demonstration of international cooperation but also as technology transfer, elements which are critical to the development of small developing countries like Jamaica.”

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Methamphetamine production hits record high across East and Southeast Asian countries, UNODC cautions

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methamphetamine production hits record high

Production of methamphetamine has rocketed in East and Southeast Asia over the course of the past year, according to a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The study reveals that annual seizures of methamphetamine in countries in the region other than China reached record highs in 2018, while street prices dropped significantly – a trend that analysts say indicates increasing availability of the drug.

Methamphetamine has now become the primary drug of concern in 12 out of 13 East and Southeast Asian nations, UNODC said, up from five 10 years ago.

The sole exception is Vietnam, where heroin remains the most worrying drug in terms of usage and damage caused.

In 2017, total seizures of methamphetamine across the region rose to a record 82 tons, with projected figures for last year indicating a further substantial increase to 116 tons.

Some 515 million methamphetamine pills were seized in Thailand alone last year, which represented a 17-fold increase over the total amount of the drug confiscated in the country a decade ago.

According to the report, organised crime networks in the region have been becoming increasingly involved in the production and distribution of methamphetamine and other drugs over recent years, while methamphetamine-related addiction cases have come to account for the majority of all drug-related treatment admissions in East and Southeast Asian countries.

The study also found that a wide range of new psychoactive substances (NPS) have emerged in the region, including deadly synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

As of last year, a total of 434 NPS had been detected in the region, making these drugs “a significant challenge for national authorities and people in the region”.

Elsewhere, UNODC observed that annual seizures of ketamine have been in decline since 2015, thanks in the most part to falling levels of production in China.

Niyom Termsrisuk, Secretary General of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) of Thailand, commented: “Volumes of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs originating from the Golden Triangle to Thailand have reached unprecedented levels.

“Large amounts of synthetic drugs have been trafficked to neighbouring countries in the region, but also further. The challenge is growing, and it is critical we work with UNODC and the region to curtail flows of precursor chemicals that are being used to produce methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs.

“We will be discussing solutions with regional leaders when we host the Mekong MOU on Drug Control Ministerial Meeting in June of this year.”

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Cocaine estimated to be worth $77 million seized from shipping container at Port of New York

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cocaine estimated to be worth $77 million

A group of US law enforcement agencies have seized more than 1.45 tonnes of cocaine with an estimated street value of some $77 million from a shipping container passing through the Port of New York.

In a joint operation, officers from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the US Coast Guard (USCG), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the New York State Police (NYSP) found 60 packages after searching the container.

Each contained white powder that tests later proved was cocaine.

The seizure is said to be the second-largest discovery of the drug at the port in its history, and is thought to be the biggest found there in almost a quarter of a century.

Investigators said the container was examined by inspectors after it arrived on a boat from South America.

Brian Michael, Special Agent in Charge from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark, commented: “Transnational criminal organisations rely upon illicit networks throughout the world to supply, transport, and distribute cocaine and other dangerous drugs.

“HSI’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force in Newark, comprised of CBP, Waterfront Commission of NY Harbor Police, Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, Port Authority Police Department, and Dover Police Department working together, strengthened by HSI’s international partnerships and DHS’s combined assets, play a critical role in disrupting the worldwide cocaine chain.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan said the size of the seizure proves that traffickers are attempting to capitalise on the growing trend of drug users mixing cocaine with fentanyl, suggesting that the amount of cocaine being discovered in New York is approaching levels seen back in the 1990s.

Last month, a baggage handler at Newark International Airport was found guilty of smuggling large quantities of cocaine into the country at the end of a trial at Manhattan Federal Court.

Tyrone Woolaston was convicted of exploiting his position to smuggle at least 5kgs of the drug through the airport during a conspiracy that is thought to have lasted a number of years before he was caught.

Woolaston’s plot was discovered when police watched him pick up a case containing fake cocaine that had arrived on a flight from the Cayman Islands.

He was arrested the following day while attempting to deliver the bogus drugs to a source, at which time he was found to be illegally in the possession of a handgun.

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