Significant Illicit Drug Manufacturing Countries

Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Report

This section is also broken down by region and focuses on illicit drug manufacturing countries, their chemical control policies and efforts.

Asia

Afghanistan

Afghanistan does not have a domestic chemical industry or a legitimate use for acetic anhydride (AA) and consequently and does not allow importation. However, AA is smuggled into the country each year by organized criminal group and others. The principal illicit sources are believed to be China, South Korea, Europe, the Central Asian states, and India. Re-packaging and false labeling often hide the identity of the shipper. Limited police and administrative capacity has hampered efforts to interdict precursor substances and processing equipment and Afghan heroin conversion laboratories tend to be small operations, making the task of control and investigative authorities more difficult. During the first nine months of 2013, the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan seized 14.4. mt of precursors.

Afghanistan has an export/import regimen for all 23 substances listed in the 1988 UN Convention which are under international control. Afghanistan’s multi-agency body that includes the CNPA and Department of Customs is responsible for tracking shipments. The Precursor Chemical Unit (PCU) of the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) is now online with the Precursor Incident Communication System PICs. The PICs system is a secure online tool to enhance real time communication and information sharing between national authorities on precursor incidents which may include seizures, stopped shipments, diversions and illicit laboratories.

Burma

The illicit production and export of synthetic drugs in Burma continued in 2013. Burma does not have a significant chemical industry and does not manufacture ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or acetic anhydride used in synthetic drug manufacturing. Organized criminal syndicates smuggle these precursor chemicals into Burma through borders shared with Bangladesh, China, Laos, India and Thailand. The precursors are then transported to heroin refineries and amphetamine-type-stimulant (ATS) laboratories primarily located in regions of Shan State which are under the control of armed militia groups or in other areas that are lightly policed.

In 2013, because of extremely porous borders, primarily along the Burma/India border, Burmese authorities were unable to control the illicit import and diversion of precursor chemicals for use in production of illegal narcotics. Efforts by Burma to engage India on the control of precursor chemicals, specifically pseudoephedrine, were unsuccessful. The Burmese police made significant precursor seizures in government controlled areas such as Mandalay, Burma’s main distribution center for precursor chemicals. Between January and September, Burmese authorities seized approximately 2.95 metric tons (MT) of pseudoephedrine, most of which originated from India. The Government of Burma has not provided estimates on the size of its licit domestic market for ephedrine or pseudoephedrine; however, Burmese officials have noted that all pseudoephedrine smuggled across the Burma/India border is destined for illicit methamphetamine laboratories in Shan State and not the legal domestic market.

Official seizure statistics between January and September 2013 related to ATS production also included approximately 2.947 kilograms (kg) of pseudoephedrine 113.2 kilograms (kg) of ephedrine and 4.63 MT of caffeine powder. Burmese police also seized 6.42 million ATS tablets and 131.47 kg of crystal methamphetamine during the same reporting period. Burma is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, but has not yet instituted laws that meet all UN chemical control provisions. In 1998, Burma established a Precursor Chemical Control Committee responsible for monitoring, supervising, and coordinating the sale, use, manufacture and transportation of imported chemicals. In 2002, the Committee identified 25 substances as precursor chemicals, and prohibited their import, sale or use in Burma.

Indonesia

Indonesia was the fourth largest importer of ephedrine and second largest importer of pseudoephedrine in 2012. Imports of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine pose significant challenges for Indonesia. While Indonesia’s growing population of close to 240 million may generate a large demand for cough and flu medicines, authorities estimate that some of these medicines and their precursors are diverted for production of methamphetamine/ecstasy. China is the primary source of licit chemicals for the Indonesian pharmaceutical industry and for chemicals used to produce illicit methamphetamines. Taiwan, India, and other Asian countries are also significant sources of licit pharmaceutical drugs diverted for use to produce amphetamine type stimulants. The 2009 National Narcotics Law gave the National Narcotics Board the authority to monitor narcotics and precursor production at pharmaceutical plants, and to conduct investigations and arrests in response to precursor and narcotics violations. Although there are several laws and regulations in place regarding the import and export of precursor chemicals, and Indonesia has reorganized the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Health to better control the import of precursor chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs, the extent of enforcement is largely unknown.

The National Narcotics Board reports that it regularly monitors companies that are listed importers of precursor chemicals such as potassium permanganate and acetic anhydride, which are commonly diverted for cocaine and heroin production. In 2013, the agency conducted visits to registered importers on 29 occasions, which resulted in two cases involving illegal precursor substances. In regard to supervision of acetic anhydride, the National Narcotics Board cooperates closely with the Ministry of Industry. Indonesia is now utilizing an online Pre-Export Notification System (PENS) for pharmaceutical precursors and the National Single Window for control of imports and exports, including precursors. Through the Ministry of Health, Indonesia reports estimates of its legal domestic narcotics precursors annually to the International Narcotics Control Board as per Commission on Narcotics Drugs Resolution 49/3.

Laos

Laos is an important transit point for Southeast Asian heroin, ATS, and precursor chemicals en route to other nations in the region. This transit drug trade involves criminal gangs with links in Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the United States, as well as in other parts of Asia.

The Laos Penal Code has several prohibitions against the import, production, and use and misuse of chemicals used for manufacturing illicit narcotics. The Ministry of Health and the Customs Department maintain controls over chemical substances. Laos has a small and nascent industrial base and the use of industrial chemicals subject to misuse for narcotics manufacture is relatively small. In 2008 the Lao National Assembly passed a drug law (Law on Drugs and Article 46 of the Penal Law) that defines prohibited substances and pharmaceuticals for medical use. In March 2009, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a “Decree” to the revised drug law to clarify criminal liability that includes a list of 32 chemical precursors which could be used for illicit purposes.

Malaysia

Malaysia is emerging as a regional production hub for crystal methamphetamine and ecstasy. Narcotics imported to Malaysia include heroin and marijuana from the Golden Triangle area (Thailand, Burma, Laos), and other drugs such as ATS. Small quantities of cocaine are smuggled into and through Malaysia from South America. Methamphetamine, ecstasy, and ketamine, mostly from India, are smuggled through Malaysia en route to consumers in Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, China, and Australia. Since 2006, Malaysia has been a location where significant quantities of crystal methamphetamine are produced. Since 2009 there have been reports of methamphetamine laboratories seized in Kuala Lumpur and in Southern Malaysia, and frequent police reports of ethnic Chinese traffickers setting up labs in Malaysia. Nigerian and Iranian drug trafficking organizations are also increasingly using Kuala Lumpur as a hub for their illegal activities.

Latin America

Bolivia

The FELCN Chemical Substances Investigations Group (GISUQ) is charged with locating and interdicting chemicals used in the traditional cocaine process, such as sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, gasoline, diesel oil and limestone. In 2011, the GISUQ found drug traffickers using new chemicals, such as isopropyl alcohol, liquid ethyl acetate and sodium bisulphate, and cement to produce cocaine. In 2012 the GISUQ also found ethyl acetate being used to purify cocaine into HCL.

In 2013, drug traffickers continued using the same chemicals and GISUQ found two new chemicals were used in cocaine production: activated carbon and phenacetin. Traffickers use activated carbon to deodorize and discolor water and other liquids and phenacetin, a highly toxic analgesic, to increase volume of cocaine. These chemicals are not among the precursor chemicals controlled under the Bolivian Counternarcotics (CN) Law. Through August 31, the GISUQ seized 585 MT of solid substances and 1,266,216 liters of liquid precursor chemicals, a 39 percent and 15 percent decrease respectively over the same period in 2012.

GISUQ coordinates activities with the General Directorate for Controlled Substances, a civilian entity under the GOB that administers and licenses the commercialization and transport of controlled substances listed under Bolivian CN Law 1008. Per Bolivian law, unless controlled substances are found next to a cocaine lab, unlicensed transport and commercialization generates only an administrative violation, being penalized by a fine and the possibility to lose the merchandise if proper paperwork is not produced within a certain period of time.

The Bolivian government does not have control regimes for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. The GISUQ, however, coordinates with the Ministry of Health to supervise and interdict illegal commercialization of illegal methamphetamines.

Colombia

Precursor chemical diversion is a serious problem within Colombia. Unlike illicit drugs, chemicals have a legitimate, and often widespread, use within Colombia. In 2013, there were approximately 4,500 chemical companies in Colombia authorized to handle regulated chemicals for legitimate use. Although chemical companies must have governmental permission to import or export specific chemicals and controlled substances, the burden of proof is on the police to prove the chemicals are intended for illicit drug production.

The Colombian government has tightened chemical controls on chemicals used for coca processing as well as strengthened chemical control legislation. However, traffickers continue to seek new avenues for camouflaging precursors and clandestinely moving them into Colombia. Chemicals are also diverted by large Colombian chemical handlers whose management may have no knowledge of the illegal activities. Chemical traffickers and clandestine laboratories use non-controlled chemicals such as n-propyl acetate to replace controlled chemicals that are difficult to obtain. They also recycle chemicals in order to decrease the risk associated with the purchase and diversion of these chemicals. Along with this practice, traffickers are recycling the chemical containers, making it difficult to trace their origin.

The Government of Colombia’s chemical control regulating authority is the Chemical and Narcotics Control and Compliance Section, operating under the Ministry of Justice and Law.

The Government of Colombia implements tighter restrictions on precursor chemicals in certain zones known for coca processing. These restrictions include reduced numbers for production, distribution and storage of chemicals, and in some areas, complete prohibition of some chemicals.

Colombian companies are not authorized to export ephedrine or pseudoephedrine in bulk form and all drug combination products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine have been banned from domestic distribution. However, they can import these precursors for the manufacture of pharmaceutical preparations which can be re-exported.

The Colombian National Police Chemical Sensitive Intelligence Unit (SIU) was formed in June of 1998. The unit’s primary mission was to verify the existence of companies importing chemicals and the validity of the import permits, including those from the United States, as well as to review their compliance with chemical control regulations. This mission changed near the end of 2000 when the focus shifted to investigative work as opposed to solely regulatory inspections. In 2007, the regulatory function of the SIU was transferred to the Chemical Control and Compliance Unit (CCCU) and the SIU maintained its investigative focus. The SIU is currently comprised of 37 members and the CCCU has 27 members. The SIU has offices in four cities in Colombia (Bogota, Cali, Medellin, and Villavicencio). The CCCU is primarily based in Bogota, but travels as needed to other cities within Colombia.

The primary mission of the SIU is to target and dismantle large-scale chemical trafficking organizations that provide chemicals to cocaine, heroin, and synthetic drug producing organizations within Colombia, Panama and Mexico. The CCCU is responsible for on-site inspections and audits, verification of imports/exports, and for developing leads for criminal prosecution purposes. The SIU and the CCCU are also responsible for the multi-national chemical targeting operation Sin Fronteras (“without borders”). The SIU coordinates all operations within Colombia in association with the Colombian Military, the Judicial Police, Colombian Prosecutors office, Colombian Customs, and various other agencies.

In 2011, the Colombian government amended its chemical law making the diversion of listed chemicals a criminal act. With this amendment, the owners can be prosecuted and their companies are susceptible to forfeiture. In 2011, the Government of Colombia scheduled levamisole, which is now the most frequently used product to cut Colombian cocaine.

The Colombian National Police (CNP) primary interdiction force, the Anti-Narcotics Directorate’s (DIRAN) Jungle Commandos (Junglas), or airmobile units, are largely responsible for the significant number of cocaine HCL and coca base labs destroyed in 2013, as well as for the seizure of significant amounts of listed chemicals during the course of their operations in 2013. The Junglas seized 282 metric tons (MT) of solid precursors and 230 MT of liquid precursors. The Carabineros, or rural police, seized 69 liters of liquid precursors in 2013 and 174 MT of solid precursors.

Peru

Peru continues to be a major importer of precursor chemicals used in cocaine production, including acetone, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and calcium oxide – the four primary precursor chemicals used in the production of cocaine in the country according to a 2012 study by the United Nations. Peru also produces sulfuric acid for this purpose. These chemicals are often diverted from legitimate channels to cocaine production with a concentration in Upper Huallaga Valley (UHV) and the Ene, Apurimac and Mantauro River Valley (VRAEM), the principal coca producing areas in Peru. Potassium permanganate, the precursor chemical most widely sought in cocaine production in neighboring countries to remove impurities and enhance the coloration, is not typically used in Peru, where alcohol is the preferred substance for this purpose. In the first nine months of 2013, the Peruvian National Police seized only two metric tons (MT) of potassium permanganate. The Peruvian National Police (PNP) has identified the principal routes of precursor chemicals from Lima into the drug source areas, and is building its capacity to intercept these shipments.

In the first nine months of 2013, the PNP Chemical Investigations Unit (DEPCIQ) continued its chemical enforcement and regulatory operations, leading to the seizure of 1,582 MT of precursor chemicals, including calcium oxide (294 MT); sulfuric acid (108.7 MT); hydrochloric acid (65 MT); and acetone (34.8 MT). The counternarcotics police (DIRANDRO) continued a bilateral chemical control program with the United States, known as Operation Chemical Choke, which specifically targets the seizure of acetone, hydrochloric, and sulfuric acid through a specialized enforcement and intelligence unit of the police. Operation Chemical Choke targets those organizations that divert these chemicals to cocaine production laboratories located near coca growing areas. In the first nine months of 2013, this operation resulted in the arrest of several chemical traffickers and the seizure of 9.4 MT of acetone, 2.5 MT of hydrochloric acid, and 38.4 MT of sulfuric acid.

Peruvian law enforcement also conducted chemical enforcement operations with neighboring countries and participated in enforcement strategy conferences to address chemical diversion. The PNP and Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) conducted a 13-day enforcement operation in September, known as Operation “Trapecio,” which focused on cocaine trafficking organizations operating in the tri-border region of Peru, Brazil, and Colombia. This successful operation targeted the floating gas stations that provide gasoline for the coca leaf alkaloid extraction process. PNP and DPF seizures included several floating gas stations and 28,860 liters of gasoline, 54.2 MT of precursor chemicals, and 30.5 MT of cement. Within the 28 cocaine laboratories destroyed as part of this mission, the police found 16.8 MT of cocaine sulfate – enough to yield approximately 2.1 MT of cocaine base.

In 2013, there were no reports of the manufacture or distribution of synthetic drugs in Peru. According to the Humala Government’s five-year national counternarcotics strategy, the Ministry of Health’s General Directorate for Medical Precursors and Drugs (DIGEMID) is responsible for the import and export, distribution, storage, trade, and promotion of all pharmaceutical products, as well as estimating the amount of precursors required to produce pharmaceuticals for legitimate purposes. Local laboratories are required to submit information related to their required quantities for this purpose to DIGEMID.

In 2012, the Government of Peru issued a legislative decree to enhance monitoring and control of chemical precursors, finished products, and machinery used to produce and transport illegal drugs. The National Tax and Customs Administration (SUNAT) is responsible for overseeing monitoring and control of precursor chemicals seized at the ports. The legislation required that SUNAT define authorized routes for the licit transportation of chemicals and that those transporting them be tracked via GPS technology by September 1. Variations from the route will result in fines and could result in criminal charges. While authorized routes have been established, we are unable to confirm whether GPS technology is being used to track vehicles carrying those chemicals as Peru’s legislation now requires. In 2013, a subsequent legislative decree was passed to make CONABI, Peru’s asset management agency, responsible for the management and disposal of chemical precursors seized by the Peruvian National Police. SUNAT and CONABI struggle to manage and dispose of these chemicals in an expedient, safe, and environmentally-sound manner.