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Fentanyl-laced cocaine growing threat in US opioid crisis, CDC data suggests

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Deadly fentanyl-laced cocaine

A huge rise in the number of people killed by cocaine has contributed to a large increase in the total number of overdose deaths in the US, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cocaine-related overdose deaths rose by 52.4% in 2016, contributing to a 21.5% increase in the overall number of people who lost their lives as a consequence of taking drugs in the US that year.

The release of the figures comes after numerous reports of dealers selling cocaine laced with fentanyl, which is up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

US overdose deaths linked to the synthetic opioid more than doubled in 2016, largely as a result of the wide availability of illicitly-manufactured versions of the drug, which are typically produced in illegal factories in China, and used by traffickers to bulk out more traditional narcotics such as heroin.

In the state of Connecticut alone, the number of overdose deaths linked to cocaine laced with fentanyl has rocketed by 420% over the past three years.

Police in other states across the country have noted a marked rise in the number of seizures of cocaine that has been cut with fentanyl, raising fears dealers are increasingly mixing the two drugs to boost profits and offer users a greater high.

In all, the CDC found 16 states saw a significant increase in cocaine overdose deaths, with Washington DC, Rhode Island and Ohio recording the highest rates.

Commenting on the new figures, CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said: “No area of the United States is exempt from this epidemic – we all know a friend, family member, or loved one devastated by opioids.

“All branches of the federal government are working together to reduce the availability of illicit drugs, prevent deaths from overdoses, treat people with substance-use disorders, and prevent people from starting using drugs in the first place.”

Cocaine laced with fentanyl has also been discovered in Canada over the past few months.

Earlier in March, police in the Canadian city of Saskatoon warned drug users to be on their guard after two people died as a result of taking cocaine that is thought to have been cut with the synthetic opioid.

The deaths prompted officials to take the highly-unusual step of publishing the phone number of the dealer who is said to have sold the synthetic opioid-laced cocaine to the drug users who lost their lives.

In a report published in October last year, the US Drug Enforcement Agency said dealers were increasingly mixing fentanyl with cocaine to produce the effect of “speedballing”, which refers to the consumption of a cocktail of cocaine and heroin.

Addressing the growing threat just weeks ago, Florida Councilman Bill Gulliford said: “Cocaine laced with fentanyl is prevalent now.

“In recent toxicology reports, every sample of cocaine had fentanyl in it.

“The scary part of this is it’s becoming more widespread. There are incidents of this used in counterfeit Xanax.”

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Organised crime police in Australia seize 1.5 tonnes of smuggled tobacco worth A$1.5 million

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1.5 tonnes of smuggled tobacco
1.5 tonnes of smuggled tobacco

Police in Australia discovered a 1.5-tonne consignment of illicit tobacco estimated to be worth A$1.5 million ($1.01 million) in Sydney’s south west earlier this week, according to a statement from New South Wales Police.

Officers from the force’s Strike Force Raptor, which is dedicated to targeting organised criminal activity connected with the country’s motorcycle gangs, found the huge haul after conducting a raid on an industrial unit in the Fairfield district of the city on Tuesday.

Detectives searching the premises after executing a warrant came across 73 boxes that were found to contain loose tobacco weighing almost 1.5 tonnes.

Police said the tobacco was impounded and taken away for further analysis, adding that no arrests had been made in connection with the shipment.

In May of last year, authorities in Australia launched a crackdown on the sale of illicit tobacco that the country’s government said it hoped would raise some A$3.6 billion over a four-year period.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said at the time that the initiative would see the government take action to prevent the sale of the 864 tonnes of illicit tobacco that was estimated to make it past the country’s customs agencies every year.

Kelly O’Dwyer, who was the nation’s Minister for Revenue and Financial Services at the time, said: “These measures will shut down the avenues that organised crime syndicates have to access illicit tobacco to fund criminal activity.”

Just months later, officers from Australian Border Force announced that they had arrested a man in connection with the discovery of a record haul of 9.5 million smuggled cigarettes, which were found concealed inside a container in a port city of Fremantle in Western Australia.

The illicit cigarettes, which were thought to have been made in Southeast Asia, would have cost the Australian treasury A$7.66 million in evaded duty had they made it onto the country’s black market.

Earlier this month, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) released a report that revealed law enforcement agencies across the country confiscated 30.6 tonnes of illicit drugs last year, noting that methamphetamine remained one of the most consumed and seized illicit drugs in the nation.

Michael Phelan, ACIC CEO, commented: “The estimated street value of the weight of amphetamines, MDMA, cocaine and heroin seized nationally in 2017–18 is nearly $5 billion, underlining the size of the black economy that relates to illicit drugs alone.”

The seventh National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Programme report, which was released in June by the ACIC, found that Australians are now using twice as much methamphetamine as any other illegal drug.

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Two men jailed over conspiracy to smuggle pig semen hidden in shampoo bottles into Australia

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conspiracy to smuggle pig semen

A court in Australia has jailed two men for illegally importing pig semen from Denmark in shampoo bottles.

Torben Soerensen, Director of pig farm GD Pork, and the company’s Breeding Manager Henning Laue were jailed for a minimum of 18 months and eight months respectively at Perth District Court yesterday over their involvement in the importation of a biosecurity hazard.

GD Pork, which is now in liquidation, was handed a fine of A$500,000 ($338,284).

Prosecutors told the court that the pair had illegally imported the pig semen from the Scandinavian country on numerous occasions between 2009 and 2017 for use in GD Pork’s artificial breeding programme.

Investigators discovered that several of the firm’s breeding sows were direct offspring of Danish boars.

The court was told the ringleaders of the plot were investors in GD Pork’s Danish parent company, who Judge Troy Sweeney said would have faced far stiffer penalties than Soerensen and Henning had they not been beyond the reach of Australian law.

Soerensen, Henning and their co-conspirators plotted to import the semen into Australia on account of the fact that Danish pigs typically produce seven more piglets per year than the indigenous species.

The Australian government upholds strict biosecurity rules, which dictate that the country’s pig stocks must be “closed genetic herds” in order to prevent the spread of disease.

The rules are intended to prevent the importation of so-called “pig plague” into the country, which originated in the US before spreading across Western Europe and can cause infertility, stillborn piglets and pneumonia.

Australian Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the Australian Government takes any breach of biosecurity legislation seriously, adding: “This case shows a disturbing disregard for the laws that protect the livelihoods of Australia’s 2,700 pork producers, and the quality of the pork that millions of Australians enjoy each year.

“The penalties handed down at the District Court of Western Australia today send a clear message that breaches of Australia’s biosecurity rules will not be tolerated…

“GD Pork imported the semen illegally in an attempt to get an unfair advantage over its competitors, through new genetics.

“These actions could have also exposed Australia’s agricultural industries, environment and the community to serious biosecurity risk.”

A spokesperson from the Western Australian Farmers Federation said the semen smuggling plot was “extremely disappointing” and “a selfish act” that could have seriously damaged the Australian pig farming industry.

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British police warn social media users not to mock drug dealer’s receding hairline

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mock drug dealer’s receding hairline

Police in the UK have warned social media users not to make fun of the receding hairline of a wanted drug dealer whose mugshot they posted online.

Gwent Police last week used Facebook to ask members of the public to help locate drug dealer Jermaine Taylor, who was being recalled to jail after breaching the conditions of his release licence.

Alongside its appeal, the force posted an image of Taylor sporting a thinning head of hair styled in a peculiar fashion, which readers of Gwent Police’s Facebook profile proceeded to mock incessantly.

Before being taken down, the post appealing for information that might lead to the apprehension of the 21-year-old had attracted more than 10,000 Facebook “likes”, tens of thousands of comments and over 14,000 shares.

“Push his release date back further than his hairline, that should teach him,” one user wrote.

Another quipped: “What is it with prisoners released on licence, hair today gone tomorrow…”

The popularity of the post and mean nature of some of the comments posted beneath it prompted Gwent Police to issue a statement warning social media users they could face prosecution if they are nasty to people online.

“We’re really grateful to everyone who is assisting us in locating Jermaine Taylor, and we must admit a few of these comments have made us laugh,” the force said.

“However, when the line is crossed from being funny to abusive, we do have to make sure we are responsible and remind people to be careful about what they write on social media.

“If you say something about someone which is grossly offensive or is of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, then you could be investigated by the police.”

The statement attracted further light-hearted comments, with one Facebook user posting: “Can’t work out what’s thinner. This guy’s hair or Gwent Police’s skin?”

Numerous UK police forces have faced criticism over recent years for targeting internet trolls at a time when violent crime is rocketing across Britain.

In September last year, Chairman of the UK Police Federation John Apter told the Daily Telegraph that detectives in Britain are so busy dealing with trivial matters on the internet that they are unable to tackle real crime.

He spoke out just weeks after South Yorkshire Police encouraged people to report “non-crime hate incidents”, which it said “can include things like offensive or insulting comments, online, in person or in writing”.

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