The largest, richest and deadliest criminal enterprise in history is penetrating deeply into civil structures that make democracy what it is: justice systems, police forces, political parties, legislatures, electoral campaigns, civilian – controlled armies, government ministries and presidential palaces
– David Schrieberg
Newsweek Magazine, 22 January 1996.
The instinct for survival is a creed in the criminal underworld illicit drug trafficking. A cherished credo, narco-survivalism is sustained on a resilient urge to carry on the trade. It runs like a stream of hot blood from the pinnacle of czars down the valley of the sinews of even petty peddlers. As the disposition lingers, so does it aggravate a discretion to build a cultic attic of potent protection over the contemptible plum and power that the trade bestows.
It is with careful commitment and painstaking patience therefore, that each cartel constructs an enormous narcoshield on its trade order. Chain by chain, rail upon rail, paling over paling, each spot on drug cartels narcoshield attracts a corresponding perception of attention.
Internal schisms are a taboo, as are external affronts, which are often responded to with stem savagery.
A typical narcocartel is precipitated on a sophisticated impregnable command structure of solid financial control framework, cultivators, production, packaging, concealment, shipment and transshipment components. It includes veterans, merchants, couriers, traffickers and peddlers.
Overseeing the network are narcoczars who hedge themselves with sophisticated units of human factor, armed with lethal weapons, state-of-the-art communication/security gadgetry, artful drills and deep financial chests.
There are easily discernible motives for the neat organization in the illicit drug trade. In the first place, illicit drug wheeling and dealing is a worldwide mega money spinning industry which yields fortunes in trillions of dollars. The trillions are in turn laundered into real estates, oil and gas business, electronics, motor vehicles, machinery, banking and other industries.
Investigations estimate that annual profits derived from drug trafficking worldwide are anywhere between 7-10 trillion US dollars. It has been noted that worldwide narcotrade is higher in retail value than petroleum, second only to weapons trade. For example, one kilogram of first grade heroin in Pakistan cost over 8,000 US dollars.
With such megabucks, protection holds a prime place in illicit narcotics scheme. Narcoprotection as it were is the responsibility of narco families. International narcotics syndicates are linked by a network which exists in all 5 continents of the world.
However, the major ones encompass the Silver Triangle of Latin America, which is primarily concerned with cocaine trade. The Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle dominate the Asian heroin trade. Kum Sa was at one point one of the major actors in the Golden Crescent/Triangle; while the cartel in Mexico subsumed under the Silver Triangle was spearheaded by Caro Quintero. Roberto Suarez controlled the Bolivian family. Pablo Escobar at the peak of his reign, before his death, was head of the Medelin Cartel in Colombia. Other prominent syndicates are the Japanese Yakuza with over 90,000 gangsters in more than 3,000 groups and the Jamaican Possess. The Chinese Triad has over 300,000 members worldwide. There are also the Aryan brotherhood and the Mafia, short for Morte alia Francia anela. The Mafia consists of over 5000 individuals in 25 “families” federated under The commission. Mafia activities have been on since 1282 when it was founded in Palermo, Italy, albeit, at the time it had noble political objectives against French oppression.
Surrogates of the Gulf cartels and the cartels of the Americas exist in Africa. These emerged in the early 80s, capitalizing on the lure presented by disintegrating African economies to reroute illicit drugs from the Asia and Americas to Europe and America through African countries, particularly because of the taut on primary narcotics routes by the US Government and her European allies.
Doubtless, the heat mounted by the US Coast Guards and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on the cartels under the Silver Triangle may have propelled the search not only for fresh heroin and cocaine transshipment routes, but processing laboratories in Africa. Little wonder it was alleged that a cocaine (crack variety) laboratory was detected in Ghana in 1993. There may yet be other clandestine labs in other African countries like Cameroon, Guinea Conakry, Mauritius, Nigeria and South Africa.
Africa drug criminals notably supply or transship a good chunk of the world’s finest marijuana, cannabis resins and khat. Cocaine and heroin are equally smuggled by them to the consuming nations of the West. Though there is no fast homogeneity in the pattern of African illicit drugs trade, many African countries have been fully penetrated by the drug underworld.
Notwithstanding internal plans to guarantee impregnable networks of protection usually perfected through blood ties, what comes uppermost on the agenda of czars the world over is the smooth flow of consignments of their products. The prime gambit here is predicated on risks – free demand outlets without which supply could be stifled.
To keep consignments at minimum risks, drug barons initiate lines of cover by initiating muscles also known as contact men in the parlance of narcounderworld. Cover muscles include Drug Enforcement Agents also known as fuzzies, Judges, top lawyers, political moguls, top military and
Police brass, Customs, Immigrations and other high ranking public officers or private well connected business executives.
For regular hunks of silver (cash contact men) see to it that nickels (supplies) are not busted by hard fuzzies. But the muscles who quite often are state officials are themselves usually carefully selected for the purposes of either ensuring easy passage or merely providing the necessary protection against bad hangups (problems) on every trade route.
Successful infiltration of top government officials is open sesame into the structures they represent. There are 3 basic ways through which initiation of government officials is achieved, and these include:
• Blackmail and
Subtle contact entails approaching officials by indirect means through agents, close associates or by initial contact with officials upon a session of preliminary inquiries to ascertain their reliability.
An official who is financially accessible to agree is an easy mark. Contacts are then established with such officials at their homes, offices, on phone, during journeys/trips, at clubs and other social gatherings.
The Japanese Yakuza advertise in public for membership.
The blackmail method is intricate. It entails offering huge gifts in kind to officials holding positions of influence and control. Once the bait is taken, compensation is expected in return by way of demand for protection. Refusal to oblige, most often than not, attracts wasting of the official(s).
Roberto Suarez of Bolivia once offered to pay off his country’s external debt of 3 billion dollars for clemency. On another occasion the leader of Peru’s National Union of Coca growers was able to persuade Alan Garcia to introduce him to President George Bush of the United States at an International Conference on illicit drugs. It took officials of the US Secret Service nipping the move at the bud for it to achieve futility.
Under the third method, typical of Colombian cartels, direct contacts are made with state officials by Narcobarons who then offer them deals of lead or silver for support. Silver here means cash, while lead is euphemism for bullet.
For refusing to support Narcobarons and preferring to subscribe to government’s anti drug campaigns, 24 Colombian Judges were targeted and pegged off in 1985. It was in similar manner that Bolivia’s Justice Minister Lars Bouilla was assassinated on the streets of Bogota.
Lots and lots of Drug Enforcement operatives have also been wasted on the orders of barons, sometimes for double dealings.
President, African Council on Narcotics (ACON)
P.O. Box 18914 Garki, Abuja
NOTE:Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Rekpene Bassey, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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