Europe supplies world’s ecstasy
By The Guardian – Sept 18 2002
Copyright: The Guardian
Europe has become one of the biggest drug-producing regions in the world, according to new ecstasy seizure statistics from the US.
The figures from the American Drugs Enforcement Administration reveal that more than 10 million ecstasy tablets were seized in the US last year, of which 80 per cent were manufactured in Europe. In 1999 the DEA seized three million tablets. In 1993 they seized 196.
The statistics reveal the boom in ecstasy production and export from Europe. In 2000, 27.5 million ecstasy tablets were among 10,000 kilos of drugs produced in Europe and seized overseas. In Europe 17m tablets were seized in 2000, 50 per cent more than in 1999.
The ecstasy smuggled from Europe to the US is worth more than £3 billion. Some comes from Britain or is trafficked by gangs with connections in the UK, according to European police sources.
The massive production of ecstasy in Europe, particularly in and around the Dutch city Maastricht, is causing tensions between transatlantic law enforcement officials and policymakers.
In recent months there have been seizures of European ecstasy in Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Mexico, Suriname and Brazil.
Earlier this year Europol, the European criminal intelligence service, launched a Europe-wide attempt to crack down on the export of ecstasy from Europe. Only 333,000 tablets were seized and 13 people arrested and American DEA agents told The Observer they would welcome further action. British police sources said that they were aware of American concerns.
Experts say they do not expect production to fall soon despite attempts by the Dutch government to find and destroy the labs. Ecstasy manufacturers are now moving into Eastern Europe where precursor chemicals are easily available. Labs have recently been found in Poland, Bulgaria and Russia. The profits can be huge. According to the DEA, the initial investment needed for an ecstasy production lab can be less than £30,000. Each tablet costs between 10 and 20p to produce and in America can be sold for £30, several times more than in the UK.
The trade is so lucrative that Colombian smuggling gangs have been asking for payment in ecstasy pills for cocaine delivered to European dealers. A kilo of cocaine is, according to DEA sources, exchanged for 13,000 ecstasy pills which are then taken to North and South America.