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transfers daily, and the growing
speed and interconnectivity of those Global Crime Case: Heroin
transactions adds to the difficulty of
tracing money transfers, particularly
across borders into regions where The case of heroin ably demonstrates the way in which the net-
regulations are not enforced. To com- worked world of crime crosses international borders, involves a multi-
bat the problem, more countries will plicity of illegality, and presents an ominous picture of a dark future
participate in international organiza- ahead.
tions to regulate and control fraudu- Heroin is a derivative from the opium poppy, which is distilled into a
lent financial activity, perhaps potent and highly addictive narcotic. Research published in The Lancet
spurred by the proliferation of (the Journal of the British Medical Association) suggests that heroin is
money laundering of funds for ter- the illegal narcotic that has the highest levels of dependency and physi-
rorist activities. International agen- cal harm. As a result of this, the drug appears on Schedule I on the
cies such as Interpol also work Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs.
closely with technology providers to The principal areas of production for heroin are the “Golden Crescent”
develop security controls for track- (Afghanistan, Pakistan), the ”Golden Triangle” (Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar,
ing and preventing financial and and Thailand), and Latin America (principally Mexico and Colombia).
high-tech crimes. But even the most Global production is currently weighted toward the Golden Crescent,
advanced security systems and coor- which accounts for an estimated 92% of world production.
dinated enforcement cannot prevent Global consumption, however, is skewed toward the developed world. It
targeted attacks on international fi- is difficult to assess the size of the market for heroin in Europe and North
nancial systems. America with any great accuracy because, by definition, its illegality makes
Daily international transfers of it unquantifiable. However, the CIA reports that 56% of global seizures oc-
$2 trillion via computer communica- cur in Europe and Africa, while only 10% occur in the United States. It is
tions pass through conventional widely held that cocaine is the narcotic of choice in the United States,
banks, Internet banking, mobile while Europe displays a preference for heroin.
banking, and e-commerce transac- Heroin tends to be processed locally from the opium poppies at the
tions. Many transactions cross bor- point of cultivation. It then needs to be transported to the point of con-
ders going not through financial in- sumption, generally using the transport infrastructure of globalization
stitutions, but rather through as a means of distribution. The CIA reports that 71% of global seizures
professional services, such as real es- take place along land routes. The key land route is the “Balkan Route”
tate agents and accountants facilitat- that links the Golden Crescent with Europe. This route has two
ing transactions that exchange cash branches — the northern branch that runs north of the Black Sea via
for purchases to mask ownership of Russia, Ukraine, and eastern Europe, and the southern branch that
originating funds. Offshore corpora- runs south of the Black Sea via Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Croatia.
tions and relatives also offer assis- Along these routes, the transport of heroin acquires another dimension.
tance transferring funds via mobile In transit, the heroin becomes one of a number of illicit contraband
phones and Internet payment ser- goods being transported from one part of the world to another. Each
vices such as PayPal. shipment of heroin may be accompanied by undocumented immi-
The same technologies that make grants, illegal weapons, counterfeit products, and other illicit items.
criminal activities possible — rapid Usually, the illicit goods will accompany licit trade, making their detec-
financial transactions via mobile de- tion difficult for law enforcement agencies.
vices or the Internet, for in- In this environment, the key profit zone in globalized crime has be-
stance — also make transborder come in the transit of goods rather than their production or sale