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Major shipments of a chemical used in the production of heroin have been making their way to Afghanistan, even though there is no legitimate purpose for the substance to be there in large quantities, according to a report from Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.
Acetic anhydride is used to make aspirin, wood preserver, dyes and perfumes but also in the production of heroin derived from the opium poppy, a cash crop used by the Taliban in Afghanistan to finance its war.
Law enforcement officers say despite their best efforts, major shipments have been flowing into the Central Asian nation – especially from Japan.
In fact, Japan has become what analysts refer to as a "hub" for the export of this key component to produce the narcotic. A few months ago, Japanese police seized some eight tons of acetic anhydride at the ports of Nagoya and Yokohama. The suspected smugglers were Pakistani. The shipments were hidden in cars being shipped to Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.
Under Japanese narcotics law, any shipment beyond 210 kilograms must be reported to authorities in advance. Domestic shipments, however, are not subject to any legal restrictions.
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Limits on the export of the chemical have drawn the attention of the United Nations, which is seeking international efforts to curb trade of the chemical.
Last year, for example, a total of 121 tons were seized in Europe, including Turkey. Some 33 tons also were seized in Asia and the Middle East, India, Iran and South Korea.
"Afghanistan has no legitimate need for the chemical (acetic anhydride)," said a recent report of the International Narcotics Control Board. The report, noting that drug traffickers continued to smuggle the chemical across Asian borders to heroin manufacturers in Afghanistan, said, "seizure of the substance in Afghanistan, as well as in the countries bordering Afghanistan, has remained negligible, and little is known about the sources, methods and outlets used to divert the substance."
The International Narcotics Control Board is the independent group that monitors the implementation of the United Nations drug control conventions.
The Taliban receives some 60 percent of its income from the drug trade, using profits to purchase weapons.
F. Michael Maloof, a frequent G2B contributor, is a former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.