Drug Trafficking Routes: Where is the Truth?
Bosnia and Herzegovina is not the main route for narcotics transport between the East and the West, BiH Ministry of Security officials claim. However, this is the impression that cannot be avoided after multiple announcements in the past year that „yet another arm of the so-called Balkan route was disabled“ in Bosnia.
By: Saida MUSTAJBEGOVIĆ
In operation Prenj III conducted in late November, six Herzegovinians were arrested under suspicion they were a part of the international chain of drug traffickers. The announcement went on to say that this operation disabled yet another arm of the so-called Balkan route of skunk marijuana trafficking from Montenegro, via BiH and Croatia to Western Europe.
Bosnians and Herzegovinians have often received similar information in the past year. Every time the information included the claim that „a chain of drug trafficking was cut – mostly skunk marijuana trafficking“. The question that arises from this is – Has BiH become the main route in narcotics trafficking? The BiH Ministry of Security officials claim this is not the case. They explained that, according to conclusions drawn by numerous relevant players in the field of illegal drug trafficking, such as OSCE and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the main route in drug trafficking does not go through BiH, but through southern Montenegro and southern Italy.
„The amount of confiscated narcotics, especially skunk marijuana, which is grown in BiH and the neighboring countries, has increased. This creates an impression that the pressure of illegal traffickers against BiH borders is increasing“, reads the reply we received from BiH Ministry of Security. However, a month and a half ago, at round table „Fight Against Organized Crime and Corruption in the Balkans“ held in Bruxelles, assistant to director of Europol Operations Department Laszlo Salgo said that, according to the information his organization had received, the criminal center from which production and transport of drugs, weapons and cigarettes was coordinated was in the Balkans. The list of the problematic countries includes BiH.
Information similar to this one have been presented to the global public for years. For example, six years ago, the State Department labeled BiH in its report on international control of narcotics and fight against Crime a junction point for transport of narcotics between the East and the West, and emphasized that the narcotics market in our country was increasing.
This makes us conclude that there are no rules in trafficking and that drug trafficking routes are changing. It all depends on production and demand at global illegal market. According to police forces’ experience so far (information being constantly released in media), ecstasy from the Netherlands passes through BiH on its way to the East, while heroin from the Middle East passes through Serbia, Montenegro and BiH on its way to the West. Of course, a certain amount of the drugs ends in BiH, depending on demand. Basically, most drugs that arrive to BiH come from Albania, Kosovo and Sandžak. „Albanian“, a popular name for marijuana and modified marijuana called skunk, is increasingly more present at our illegal market, while heroin arrives from Sandžak and Kosovo.
„Nezavisne novine“, a Banja Luka-based newspaper, depicted this vividly: „Those involved in narcotics trade in bigger BiH towns, operate in one day with the amount of drugs equivalent to the value of five to six luxurious apartments“. We should not neglect the fact that narcotics market in BiH is constantly growing.
Institutions Are Keeping Silent
However, the information we had access to while preparing this text were partial, because some institutions did not think they should provide the requested data on drugs abuse in our country. The Spokeswoman of SIPA, Željka Kujundžija, for example, wrote the following instead of a reply: „Since most of your questions pertain to the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, please contact the Sector for Fight Against Terrorism, Corruption and Narcotics Abuse which operates within the BiH Ministry of Security and which receives information from all security agencies in BiH“. It should be noted that the agency the Spokeswoman represents also operates on the whole territory of BiH. On the other hand, Ćamil Kreso, assistant to the director of Federal Police Authority, said they had information „only“ for BiH (which were the only we wanted), and that the questions were specific, which is why they needed a lot of time to provide answers. We heard nothing from Republika Srpska.
Ministry of Security officials explain that the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted in 2009 the Strategy for Prevention and Control of Drugs Abuse, which partially answers our question. Entity ministries of internal affairs and agencies for implementation of law adopt plans on a yearly basis which treat this area and aim at enhancement of prevention and control of drugs abuse.