The Involvement of All Asia
Active or passive complicity in the drugs trade affects most of the countries of Asia to raise fundamental doubts as to whether any realistic prospects exist for its eradication. Heroin from the Golden Triangle, for example, travels by sea to Vladivostok and then passes overland through Mongolia, the Russian Federation, and Eastern Europe to the main Western European markets. Most of the countries of Southern Asia-Bangladesh and India-as well as the former members of the Soviet Union-Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan-have become involved in the transit trade (see Figure 14.1), while Russia is a major market for drugs as well as a transit country. Malaysia and Singapore each have draconian anti-drugs laws: in Malaysia these include flogging and imprisonment for soft-drug offenses and the death penalty for hard-drug offenses, and Singapore has similar laws, although it is known to be a drug money-laundering center. Eighteen Chinese provinces are drug importers, and opium smoking has long been a traditional Chinese practice. India is a major hashish-consuming country. The greater part of the Asian transit business is to supply the European market, and, following the end of the Cold War, various drug cartels moved into Eastern Europe to control access to the market of the European Union. Synthetic drugs are produced in Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Latvia, although the main ecstasy producers are based in Western Europe. The location of Lebanon, strategically situated on the edge of Asia with easy access to both Europe and Africa, makes it an important distribution center. The country has long been in turmoil as a result of civil war and Israeli/Syrian incursions, a fact that has made both drug trafficking and money laundering easier. Lebanon produces both heroin and cannabis, though it is believed that most of its poppy fields in the Bekaa Valley have now been eradicated. More important are its distribution and moneylaundering activities.