The Illicit Traffic in Narcotics Throughout the World


I. Introduction
II. Volume of the Illicit Traffic
III. The Routes of the Illicit Traffic and the Sources of the Illicit Drugs
IV. Methods of Concealment
V. The Situation in Various Countries and Territories
VI. Penalties


Pages: 1 to 15
Creation Date: 1951/01/01


Full size image: 120 kB

The Illicit Traffic in Narcotics Throughout the World

I. Introduction

At its fourth session held in May 1949, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs observed that "the volume of illicit traffic throughout the world was still considerable, that the amounts of narcotic drugs in the illicit traffic in certain areas had increased alarmingly, that clandestine factories were still operating and that a new danger had been created by the appearance of synthetic drugs".

While in the last thirty years, considerable progress has been made under both the League of Nations and the United Nations in checking the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs throughout the world, this traffic still is a serious problem.

Large financial gains, of course, furnish the incentive which keeps the traffic going. The basic cause of this pernicious trade, however, transcending the profit motive, is man's age-old tendency to seek escape from unbearable realities of everyday life. One way, and the most dangerous one, of satisfying this tendency is to produce a short-lived euphoria with the help of narcotic drugs.

The problem of the illicit traffic may be studied through a close examination of its constituent facts, which may be grouped as follows:

The volume of illicit traffic;

The routes of the illicit traffic and the sources of the illicit drugs;

The methods of concealment;

Survey of the situation in various countries and territories; and Penalties.

The information given in this article is based on the data furnished by Governments in their Annual Reports and their Seizure Reports.

II. Volume of the Illicit Traffic

One of the first questions is the volume of the traffic. It must be pointed out here that the word "volume", in the context of this paper, is not intended to mislead the reader into thinking that the figures presented here cover all the narcotic drugs in the illicit traffic throughout the world. As a matter of fact, only a fraction of such drugs in the world illicit traffic is discovered.

While international and national machinery for fighting the illicit traffic has been greatly strengthened throughout the world since the inception of the League of Nations, the total quantities of drugs actually discovered and confiscated in the illicit traffic are estimated not to exceed 10 per cent of the total quantities of drugs in the world illicit markets.

Moreover, of all the cases of illicit traffic discovered, only the important ones are reported to the international control authorities and although in their Annual Reports countries are required to include information on the total quantities of drugs confiscated each year within their territorial jurisdiction, some countries fail to include such information in their Annual Reports.

The illicit traffic in narcotic drugs may be analysed, quantitatively by using the available sample figures set forth in the following tables.

The table below gives a sample picture of the illicit traffic throughout the world in 1948 as compared with 1936. The figures for 1936 are chosen as the standard of comparison here because that year stood between two important events from the standpoint of international control of the illicit traffic, namely, the year of 1934, in the course of which the Narcotic Convention of 1931 came into force, and that of 1939, the eve of the Second World War, which strongly affected the course of the world's illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.

Despite the apparently lesser figure for 1948 in respect of opium, the volume of illicit traffic in opium in 1948 was, perhaps, larger than that in 1936; because the 1936 figure includes 115,809 kilogrammes of opium seized in Afghanistan, Burma, China, Lebanon, India


24,497 12,923
Prepared opium
11,811 4,444
6,253 15
392 24
867 36
96 19
Indian hemp
7,962 61,537
Resine of Indian hemp
8,297 18,760
134 43

(Pakistan), Syria and Palestine, while the 1948 figure does not contain such information, as no information in respect of these countries was given for that year. Subtracting the 115,809 kilogrammes of opium, the volume of illicit traffic in opium for 1936 would be only 8,688 kilogrammes, and the volume of the illicit traffic in opium in 1948 would show an increase instead of a decrease.

On the other hand, as for Indian hemp, the 1948 figure is so much larger than that of 1936 that it may be concluded that there has been an increase in the illicit traffic of Indian hemp during the period under review.

While it is not feasible to make exact comparisons between the volume of illicit traffic of one year and that of another, the table serves at least one purpose-- it indicates that the problem of the illicit traffic throughout the world in 1948 remained serious, and that the volume of illicit traffic in Indian hemp in 1948 showed alarming expansion.

The illicit traffic in narcotic drugs may be further analysed, quantitatively, according to various groups of narcotic drugs and by continents.


1. Europe

The table below gives a picture of the situation in Europe in the three post-war years as compared with that in the pre-war year of 1936, in respect of opium and its derivatives seized in the illicit traffic:


Raw Opium
2,347,420 55,635 953,655 1,474,780
Prepared opium
16,468 35,052 3,575 3,470
996 689 786 1,147
54,935 29,403 228,350 16,509
45,694 6,592 687 2,547

Illicit traffic in opium, morphine, and heroin increased during the post-war period in the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria, but decreased in France and the Netherlands.

Information from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Albania indicates that there was no illicit traffic in those countries in 1948. The opium figure in respect of 1936 covers seizures made in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania. There is no information for that year in respect of seizures in Hungary or Albania; and information from Poland indicated that there was no seizure in that country in 1936.

The traffic in the Scandinavian countries, Ireland, and Switzerland was insignificant. There was no information regarding the situation in Italy and Portugal in 1948.

2. The Americas

The illicit traffic in opium and its derivatives-- with the exception of prepared opium -- has tended to increase since the Second World War, and seizures of raw opium for the year 1948 exceed those for 1936. The following table supports this conclusion:


Raw opium
154,356 91,968 193,106 264,740
Prepared opium
234,429 93,652 88,087 39,648
542 57
20,025 1,674 1,565 3,311
58,843 9,427 24,279 29,525

In North America, Canada and the United States are important victims of the illicit traffic. Mexico is also important, both as a victim country and as a source of the illicit traffic although recently owing to stringent measures taken by the Mexican Government the situation in this respect has greatly improved. In Canada, there was a large seizure of opium in 1948, involving more than 165,000 grammes of opium. In 1947, on the other hand, only 5,439 grammes were seized, and in 1936, 8,264 grammes. In the United States, seizures of both raw and prepared opium have tended to decrease. In 1936, these figures were 140,206 and 221,347 grammes respectively, while in 1948, they had declined to 66,289 and 34,336 grammes. The traffic in morphine and heroin in the United States has decreased since 1936. Morphine seizures have declined from 19,054 to 2,094 grammes, while heroin seizures have fallen from 58,629 to 28,194 grammes. However, since the Second World War the traffic in heroin has increased, and may soon regain the proportions of the thirties. The figures for Mexico show that there has been a considerable increase in the traffic in that country in recent years, rising from 855 grammes in 1946 to 60,169 grammes in 1947.

Very little information is available for the other countries and territories of North and Central America.

The information received from South America is scanty and inconclusive, but what is available indicates that the illicit traffic in opium and its derivatives is not a serious problem in the majority of the countries of that continent.

3. Asia

The situation in Asia as regards the illicit consumption of opium and its derivatives continues to be very serious. The poppy is cultivated all the way from Turkey to China, and in such quantities that only a very small percentage can be utilized for the world's licit requirements. A great proportion of this opium is consumed locally, but the rest finds its way to Africa, Europe, and the Americas, where it satisfies addicts or is transformed into the more popular morphine or heroin.

Table IV, below, gives the available figures for the seizures of this group of drugs in Asia, with the same reservation as mentioned at the beginning of this section.


Raw opium
121,461,325 19,721,402 10 458,137 6,415,655
Prepared opium
11,492,327 4,963,115 3,641,396 4,396,311
6,244,862 69,810 101,355 14,204
317,592 8,944 44,369 4,094
731,763 9,900 80,389 2,992

From the standpoint of volume of illicit traffic the following countries and territories in Asia are important: Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Palestine (Israel), Thailand, Syria-Lebanon, Indo-China, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaya-Singapore.


Seizures of opium in 1936 amounted to 16,946 kilogrammes. This has been considerably reduced in the post-war period. Total seizures in 1946 amounted to only 951 kilogrammes, but in 1948 they rose to at least 3,000 kilogrammes. Burma is still flooded with illicit opium.


In 1936, 91 tons of opium were seized in China, representing roughly 75 per cent of the total for Asia. Reports for 1946 and 1947 indicate that 2.9 and 3.4 tons of opium were seized during those years. The figures are inconclusive.


There has been a considerable increase in the illicit traffic in opium in India during the post-war period. In 1936, 1,136 kilogrammes of opium were confiscated, but in 1946 the figure was 5,238 kilogrammes; in 1947, 4,926 kilogrammes; and in 1948, 2,976 kilogrammes.


In 1936, 526 kilogrammes of opium were seized in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), but during the period 1946-1948, this figure was whittled down to between 250 and 200 kilogrammes per annum.


Very large seizures of prepared opium have been effected in Iran during the post-war period. The quantities seized rose from 44 kilogrammes in 1936 to 4,183 kilogrammes in 1946 and a similar figure in 1948. Seizures of raw opium dropped, however, from 947 kilogrammes in 1936 to 286 kilogrammes in 1948.

Palestine (Israel)

No reports have been received from Palestine for the years 1947 and 1948, but during the ten years from 1936 to 1946, confiscation rose sharply from 123 kilogrammes to 544 kilogrammes.


In 1936, 520 kilogrammes of raw opium and 3,866 kilogrammes of prepared opium were seized in Thailand. Press reports tell of a tremendous traffic in opium and its derivatives and of the seizure of opium in 1,000 kilogramme lots.

Syria and Lebanon

Syria and Lebanon are also transit points for opium on its way to Egypt. Since seizures in Egypt have increased continuously from 1946 to 1949, it follows that the flow of illicit opium through Syria and the Lebanon must also have increased. In 1936, 324 kilogrammes of opium were confiscated; during the post-war period, no official information has been received by the United Nations.

French Indo-China

In 1936, French Indo-China was one of the centres of the illicit traffic in opium; 6,170 kilogrammes of raw opium and 794 kilogrammes of prepared opium were confiscated in that year.

Hong Kong

During 1946 and 1947, there were few seizures of importance in Hong Kong; they certainly were not on a scale with the 2,590 kilogrammes of raw opium and 752 kilogrammes of prepared opium seized in 1936. But in 1948, the figure rose to 292 kilogrammes.


In 1936, 575 kilogrammes of opium were seized in Korea. Ten years later, a seizure of 67 kilogrammes was reported. Since then, no information has been received.

Malaya and Singapore

Very large seizures of opium have been effected in this area in the period 1946-1948; seizures of raw opium rose from 301 kilogrammes in 1936 to 910 in 1946, 1,264 in 1947, and 2,533 in 1948. During the same period, seizures of prepared opium fell from 1,360 kilogrammes to 58 kilogrammes. Most of these seizures were effected aboard ships in Singapore harbour.

From this brief survey, it can be concluded that in many countries and territories for which reliable statistics are available, the quantities of opium seized have been increasing. Although there are no official figures, it has also been learned that the traffic in such countries as Thailand and Indo-China is increasing.

The use of illicit morphine and heroin continues throughout Asia, but not on a scale that would rival the conditions prevailing before the Second World War.Hong Kong, Japan, and Turkey reported large seizures of heroin in 1948.

4. Africa

Egypt is the only country in Africa where large quantities of opium are seized, and the situation there has been steadily worsening. In 1936, 501 kilogrammes of opium were seized; 2,439, in 1946; 3,654, in 1947; and 4,605, in 1948. Seizures of heroin, on the other hand, decreased from 26,737 grammes in 1936 to only 220 grammes in 1948.

5. Oceania

Seizures of opium in Australia have increased from 1,198 to 154,000 grammes in the period from 1936 to 1948, but confiscations of prepared opium dropped from 51,216 grammes to a "negligible quantity". Small seizures of opium are also effected in New Zealand and a few of the island chains in Oceania.


1. Europe

The illicit traffic in cocaine seems to be declining in Europe. In 1936, 20,195 grammes were seized; by 1946, the figure stood at 18,251; in 1947, it fell to 8,621; and in 1948 it further declined to 6,798 grammes. The greater part of this latter figure represents seizures in the Netherlands (1,000 grammes), the United States and British Zones of Occupation in Germany (2,217 grammes), and France (3,282 grammes).

2. The Americas

During the Second World War, cocaine practically disappeared from the illicit markets in North America, but the traffic in this drug, particularly in the United States, has been on the increase. Seizures in that country rose to 5,954 grammes in 1948 from 1,025 grammes in 1947 and 473 grammes in 1936. Most of this cocaine originated in Peru.

The only information from South America came from Argentina, which indicated that 202 grammes of cocaine had been seized in that country.

3. Asia

In 1936, 73,499 grammes of cocaine were confiscated in Asia-- Burma, China, India, and Malaya being the centres of the traffic. By 1948, this figure was reduced to 5,415 grammes. The traffic in cocaine could not be compared with that in opium or its derivatives.

4. Africa

There is a small traffic in cocaine in Egypt; in 1948, 405 grammes of the drug were confiscated there.

5. Oceania

No cocaine was seized anywhere in Oceania during the period 1946-1948, according to the reports received from that area.


Full size image: 178 kB, PRINCIPAL SEA ROUTES FOR THE ILLICIT TRAFFIC IN OPIUMFull size image: 230 kB


1. Europe

The use of Indian hemp in Europe is confined chiefly to Greece and Turkey. In 1936, for example, all but about 1 kilogramme of the 567 kilogrammes of Indian hemp seized came from these two countries and all but 8 kilogrammes of the 624 kilogrammes of the resin preparations confiscated. Post-war seizures in both Greece and Turkey have been considerably less; Indian hemp has ranged between 64 and 89 kilogrammes; the resin preparations between 166 and 74 kilogrammes. In both instances, the lower figures represented 1948.

2. The Americas

In Mexico, the pre-war total of 464 kilogrammes in 1936 rose to 1,202 kilogrammes in 1947 and then fell to 217 kilogrammes in 1948. The larger figure coincided with a special campaign to reduce the cultivation of the drug.

In the United States, the situation has grown more serious since the Second World War. Seizures amounted to 637, 800, and 1,475 kilogrammes in 1946, 1947 and 1948 respectively. This compares with the 1936figure of 3,671 kilogrammes.

No figures of consequence are available for South America.

3. Asia

The illicit traffic in Indian hemp in Asia amounted to 2,116 kilogrammes in 1936, of which 2,092 kilogrammes were seized in Burma. No information has been received from Burma for 1947 or 1948. In 1946, however, only 492 kilogrammes of Indian hemp were seized in that country.

The illicit traffic in resin preparations of Indian hemp has tended to increase recently. In 1936, 6,970 kilogrammes were seized; ten years later, 8,063 kilogrammes; in 1947, 5,475 kilogrammes; and in 1948, 8,684 kilogrammes. A large percentage of this resin was seized in India. In 1948, seizures in that country had risen from a pre-war figure of 5,000 to 5,600 kilogrammes to the neighbourhood of 8,510 kilogrammes.

Other countries also report sizable seizures. Ceylon confiscated 1,141 kilogrammes in 1946, as against 752 in 1936. No information is available for the last few years. In Palestine, the figure rose even more spectacularly from 39 kilogrammes in 1936 to 1,204 in 1946. And, there too, there is no information for 1947 and 1948. In Pakistan, 321 kilogrammes were seized in 1947. Twelve years ago, 756 kilogrammes were confiscated in Syria-Lebanon, but no recent reports have been received from those countries.

In Malaya and Singapore, 153 kilogrammes were confiscated in 1948, while there were no seizures in 1936 or 1947. In 1946, the figure was 140 kilogrammes.

It may be concluded, therefore, that the abuse of Indian hemp is increasing in many parts of Asia, especially as regards the resin preparations.

4. Africa

As Asia is the continent of the opium poppy and South America the continent of the coca leaf; so Africa is the continent of the Indian hemp plant. More Indian hemp is to be found in Africa than in all the rest of the world combined. Table V offers statistics which support these statements.


( kilogrammes)
Indian hemp
1,141 12,464 898 59,788
Resin preparations of Indian Hemp
494 2,252 8,517 10,002
1,635 14,716 9,415 69,790

The foregoing figures show that the illicit traffic in Indian hemp products is on the increase in Africa. In analysing them, however, it is important to point out the fact that seizures of dagga (a form of Indian hemp) in South Africa are very large, and that no reports were received from South Africa for 1936 or 1947. During the 1930's dagga seizures in South Africa averaged about 15,000 kilogrammes, so that it is likely that the 1936 figure should be raised to about 16,000 kilogrammes. It may be worth while describing the situation in the various countries and territories of Africa, where hemp is grown, one by one.


The influx of narcotics into Egypt, as reflected by the seizures throughout the country, has multiplied many times since the Second World War and constitutes one of the more serious problems in the control picture. Hashish, which is one of the resin preparations of Indian hemp, is consumed in great quantities in Egypt. Seizures have risen sharply from 456 kilogrammes in 1936 to 2,146 kilogrammes in 1946, 8,462 kilogrammes in 1947, and 9,655 kilogrammes in 1948. Since the resin is from ten to twenty times more powerful than the plant, this would be equivalent to between 100,000 and 200,000 kilogrammes of dagga or marihuana.

South Africa

Approximately 46,615 kilogrammes of dagga were confiscated in South Africa during 1948 which showed a considerable increase over the 1946 figure of 12,345 kilogrammes and the pre-war figures of about 15,000 kilogrammes. This constitutes the largest confiscation of a single drug reported to the United Nations by any Government.

Anglo-Egyptian Sudan

Seizures of hashish in the Sudan have also increased. They amounted to 33 kilogrammes in 1936; by 1948, they had risen to 346 kilogrammes.


Seizures of dagga in this territory increased from 60 kilogrammes in 1936 to 163 kilogrammes in 1947 and 1,324 kilogrammes in 1948.


Although there were fairly large seizures of dagga in Bechuanaland in 1936, no statistics were supplied in recent reports from that territory.


In 1948, very large seizures of dagga were made in Swaziland, totalling 11,051 kilogrammes. This compares with 395 kilogrammes in 1936 and 22 kilogrammes in 1947. Although the 1948 figure was probably the outcome of a "special drive", it reveals the extent to which Cannabis sativa is grown in the southern part of the African continent.


Seizures in Tunisia have also increased, although the increase is not so pronounced as elsewhere in Africa. The figure has risen from 471 kilogrammes in 1936 to 740 kilogrammes in 1948.

Elsewhere in Africa, the traffic in Indian hemp products also exists, but the seizures have been relatively insignificant. For many territories, statistics are not available; in others, enforcement measures are not pressed too strongly. In West Africa, the habit does not seem to be so deeply engrained as in other parts of the continent.


Although compared with the volume of the illicit traffic in the other narcotic drugs, the quantities of synthetic drugs seized have been small, all indications point to their increasing use and growing popularity among traffickers and their clients or victims the addicts.

Dolantine (also under the names of demerol, pethidine, dolosal, etc.) has appeared on the illicit markets in the United States and British Zones of Occupation in Germany, the Netherlands, the United States of America, Australia, Canada and Mexico. In 1948, 32,500 tablets of dolantine were seized in Austria.

Methadone has been seized in the illicit traffic in Canada.

III. The Routes of the Illicit Traffic and the Sources of the Illicit Drugs

The routes or channels of the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs are the prima facie evidence of the itineraries fol- lowed by the traffickers in carrying their contraband goods from continent to continent, country to country or place to place.


It may be pointed out that, in 1936, synthetic drugs were still at an experimental stage.

For instance, assuming that a ship sails from Yokohama to Marseilles and on the way calls at Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Calcutta, Bombay, and Port Said, and that at the latter port Indian opium is discovered on board, there would be sufficient prima facie evidence to establish a sea route of illicit traffic in Indian opium between Calcutta or Bombay and Port Said.

The directions of the routes vary according to the drugs, their sources of supply and the illicit markets and they may be classified as sea, land and air routes according to the nature of the conveyances by which the illicit cargo is shipped. Traditionally, illicit drugs are carried by sea or by land. In recent years, traffic by air has greatly increased.

A. Raw Opium

1. Sea routes

The principal routes followed by the traffickers in carrying on the illicit traffic on a global scale are those by sea. To avoid suspicion and detection, the traffickers seldom follow direct routes from the countries of origin to the illicit markets. They usually choose indirect routes to prevent the sources from being identified. This, however, is not a general rule and exceptions have occurred many times. For instance the Australian authorities have on several occasions discovered and seized raw opium in sticks on board ships which arrived at the Australian ports direct from Abadan, Iran.

Raw opium of undisclosed origin has been brought to Australia from and by way of Burma, Ceylon, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Penang, Singapore, and the African coast.

Indian opium has been smuggled into Burma on ships from Calcutta by way of Akyab and Bassein, with Rangoon as the terminal of that sea route, while raw opium of unidentified origin has been brought by sea from Singapore and Brunei to the same terminal. However, the opium traffic in Burma is largely internal and follows the land routes. Illicit opium is smuggled to Ceylon from India.

In Egypt, Alexandria has been the terminal port of a sea route originating in Istanbul, Turkey. However, raw opium of Turkish origin is brought into Egypt principally by land through Syria and Lebanon, across the Suez Canal.

As one of the largest sea ports in the Far East, Hong Kong is a junction point through which opium routes run to and fro in all directions. From the east and north, Chinese opium is brought in from Swatow and Canton; from the west come Iranian and Indian opium. To the south, routes also extend to Indonesia and Australia.

Opium routes extend by sea from Indian ports to the African ports, and Liverpool, Singapore, Rangoon, Bangkok, the ports on the west coast of the United States of America, and China and Japan.

Raw opium has been smuggled into Indonesia from Malaya, including Singapore; Thailand, and China.

Iranian opium has been shipped by sea to the Netherlands.

It is in Singapore that one finds the confluence of the largest number of sea routes of the illicit traffic in raw opium. Here the routes extend to Bangkok, Hung Kong, China, Japan and the Philippines; westward to Burma, India and Iran; and southward to Indonesia and Australia. Opium traffic on these routes runs in both directions.

The traffic in raw opium to the United Kingdom is conducted by sea. The routes ending in the United Kingdom have proceeded from Iran by way of Port Said, Newcastle, Trinidad and Londonderry; from Turkey by way of Malta and Sfax; and from Singapore, through Gibraltar and Trinidad. Opium has also been brought to the United Kingdom by way of the United States of America, Egypt, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and Trinidad.

Opium of Chinese, Indian, Iranian and Turkish origin has been smuggled to the United States by sea. The routes are often indirect. They reach the eastern shores of the United States by Way of South European and North African ports. One route extends to the United States of America by way of Antwerp and Hamburg, mother by way of New Caledonia.

2. Land routes

Raw opium reportedly of former German Army stocks has been smuggled from Germany into Austria.

The inter-zonal routes of illicit traffic in raw opium in Germany extend from the zone of occupation under the USSR to the British Zone; from the American Zone to the French Zone; and from the British Zone to the French Zone of occupation.

Turkish opium has been smuggled into Egypt by way of Syria and Lebanon, the route followed by the traffickers crossing the Sinai Desert and the Suez Canal and ending in Ismailia in Egypt. Invariably the opium is carried by men on foot or by camels. Opium is also frequently found among railway passengers travelling westward to Kantara, in Egypt.

In Burma, the land routes over which illicit traffic in raw opium operates are those originating in China, including that along the once famous "Burma Road" of the Second World War; in the Shan States in eastern Burma; and elsewhere within the country.

3. Air routes

Illicit traffic in raw opium by air has become more frequent.

In Burma, internal traffic by air from one part of the country to another has been often reported. Similarly, traffic by air from one city to another in Indonesia has been reported. Raw opium was transported by air from Penang to Indonesia and from Canton, Chungking and Kunming to Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Raw opium has also been smuggled by air from India to Pakistan and from Thailand to Penang.


The sea routes of illicit traffic in prepared opium extend from Hong Kong to Australia by way of the Philippines, North Borneo and Indonesia; from Calcutta; and from Singapore.

From Singapore routes extend to North Borneo, Brunei, Sarawak and the United States. The route ending in the United States also touches the shores of the Philippines.

Prepared opium seized in North Borneo was also reported to have been shipped from India, Singapore and Thailand.

The routes of illicit traffic by sea which end in the United States were reported to have originated also in India, Iran, Malaya and the Philippines.

Seizures of prepared opium from Mexico have been frequently made by the United States authorities at. points on or near the Mexican border, and on the Pacific coast.


Morphine has been smuggled by sea to Australia from the United Kingdom by way of South Africa and Indonesia, where illicit traffic in the drug was discovered to have originated in Hong Kong.

Morphine seized in the United States was reported to have come from the Philippines, Okinawa, Guam and Japan. The sources of these seizures were, reportedly, the military stores collected in the Far East during the Second World War.

Routes of illicit traffic in morphine by land have been found to run between Austria and Italy; between the different zones of occupation in Germany; from Germany to the Netherlands, and to Austria from Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia. Morphine from clandestine factories in Mexico has been seized in the United States at points on the Mexican border.

Morphine has been shipped by air from Kunming to Hong Kong and in Mexico from Culiacan to Tijuana.


Cocaine has been smuggled by sea to Burma by way of the Malayan ports from the other countries of the Far East; to the United States of America by way of Egypt, France, Greece and Italy. Large quantities of cocaine of Peruvian origin have been seized in the United States. Cocaine of Japanese origin has also been seized in the United States since the Second World War.


Full size image: 52 kB, SEIZURES OF NARCOTICS

Marihuana (Indian hemp) cigarettes seized in the illicit market

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Variety of materials seized in the illicit traffic: packages of heroin and morphine, opium in bulk, etc

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By land, cocaine has been smuggled from Austria to Italy, from the French to the British Zone in Germany and from Switzerland to Italy. One route extends from Germany into Austria.

E. HEROIN ( Diacetylmorphine)

The routes of illicit traffic in heroin run from Mexico to Canada by way of the United States and from coast to coast and city to city in Canada. Heroin found in Canada is frequently the so-called "brown" or Mexican type. Heroin is sometimes supplied by air from Montreal to Vancouver in Canada.

Heroin from Kunming, which was reported to have been shipped by air, was seized in Hong Kong.


The illicit market for Indian hemp in Australia has been supplied by sea from the United States, India, Iran and the United Kingdom. Indian hemp is smuggled to and from Pakistan. From the United States, Indian hemp has been smuggled to the Philippines.

Indian hemp is transported by train, lorry and camel to Egypt in a steady stream and in large quantities from Syria and Lebanon.

Supplies of Indian hemp (marihuana) from the illicit market in the United States are principally derived from Mexico. Routes of illicit traffic in Indian hemp exist also between Ethiopia and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and between the latter and the Uganda border. The Union of South Africa is supplied by the adjoining territories.

In 1949 a case of smuggling of Indian hemp by air from Lebanon to Burma was reported.


Though the quantities of synthetic drugs in the illicit traffic have increased, the routes of the illicit traffic in such drugs have not yet been definitely determined.

Some traffic has been discovered between Mexico and the United States.

Another route of illicit traffic in dolantine (demerol) has been reported to exist between Germany and the Netherlands.

A small amount of pethidine was reported to have been smuggled by air to Australia.

A total of 32,500 tablets of dolantine were seized in Austria in 1948. The sources of these drugs were not revealed.

Dolantine tablets were seized in the British Zone of Germany and in Canada.

IV. Methods of Concealment

Traffickers are past masters in hiding illicit drugs either in storage or in transit. The methods of concealment employed by traffickers often escape detection by the most experienced inspectors of narcotic drugs.

In spite of the traffickers' ingenuity, illicit drugs are discovered by the authorities almost daily throughout the world.

When a ship is docked after completing an ocean voyage, it may be subjected to a routine inspection, or to a special search, on suspicion or advance information that the ship carries contraband in violation of narcotic laws. Such inspection or search has frequently uncovered hidden opium.

Reports received by the United Nations state that opium has been found concealed "in a canvas wind chute in an open store and paint room forward"; "under some steam pipes forward and on top of a ledge in the forepeak"; "on ledge under plates in the engine room"; "under shaft blocks in the tunnel aft"; "under the deck planking of the forepeak"; "behind the cable panelling outside the main saloon"; "in an air trunk in the lavatory forward"; "on a ledge under an air trunk"; "on a ledge in the forepeak"; "under rope tonnage space aft"; "in a tin in the lavatory"; "in matting in the tunnel engine room"; "in the after end of the tunnel" (in kerosene tins); "in the ship's tunnel inside three jute corn sacks"; "in a sealed tin in the water in the pump room bilges"; "in the false bottoms of tubs containing molasses"; "in the forward hold beneath some diesel oil drums"; "in the molasses"; "under the base of the dynamo engine in the main engine room"; ''in the coal in the aft bunker of the ship"; "in the forward bilges"; "inside a rattan basket" carried by a passenger; "under tanks in false bulkheads and beams of the motor sampan"; "in drawers and lockers in the Cabin of the chief steward"; "suspended inside three columns of the main engine by a cord fastened to bolts in the tops of the columns"; "behind lining in the gunners' messroom"; "in burlap bag inside a lubricating oil tank in the engine room"; "in a shaft alley on a ledge, port side, aft"; "in a cigarette tin on an overhead angle iron located in the seamen's lavatory, starboard side, main deck"; "on the floor planks of the crew's quarters"; "under the steps leading to the ship's engine-room"; "over a deck beam"; and "under the base of the anchor winch".

Opium has been found "on top of a truck in a fold of canvas roof", "in a bed roll" on a truck; and in a small passenger car, and under the front seat of a taxi.

When residential quarters were searched, opium has been found "hidden under a basin"; "wrapped in10 banana leaves concealed under the bed"; "inside the drawer of a shelf near the (iron) safe"; "hidden in black Shan bag hung on the staircase"; "in two Horlick's bottles hidden in an earthen jar filled with water"; "in an aluminum drum in an underground tunnel underneath the kitchen. The opening of the tunnel was below the fireplace; it has been refilled with earth and dung and then cemented on top"; it has also been found "in front guest room" of a house; "in a cane basket in the bedroom"; "in a basket of wood pulp in the kitchen"; "concealed in a specially constructed hole in the wall between two apartments"; "inside a trench (or ditch) at the back of a house"; "in the brick wall behind the kitchen", and "in a smoking den in a cellar room".

Opium has also been discovered on a woman in a specially made inner jacket fitting her body closely and covered by a blouse, and in the pockets of her jacket.

Opium has also been discovered in parcel post; inside a portmanteau; in bags of rice carried on ponies' backs; in false bottoms of suitcases, and wrapped around the waist of an aeroplane passenger.

In Egypt, opium has been repeatedly smuggled in rubber containers concealed in camels' stomachs. Metallic containers were formerly used by the traffickers in Egypt. As the Egyptian authorities succeeded in detecting these metallic containers, rubber containers have now replaced them.

One vial of morphine was, on one occasion, found "concealed under a coil of rope in the forepeak" of a ship; and two vials were found, on another occasion, "behind books in the recreation room" on board a ship. It may be found in places least under suspicion.

Heroin has been discovered in a man's mouth concealed in a rubber receptacle. It has also been extracted from a man's throat.

V. The Situation in Various Countries and Territories



An illicit market for raw opium exists in Australia, which is also a transit point on the sea route of the illicit traffic in raw opium.

Illicit traffic in raw opium has increased considerably in Australia since 1936. The increase seems to be due to the high price prevailing in the illicit market in Australia. Before the Second World War, the price for a half pound tin of raw opium was approximately $24 United States currency. In 1948 it was approximately $96, or four times higher than before the war. During the war, as sources of raw opium were cut off, by sea the price rose to $320. The synthetic drug pethidine was also present among the manufactured drugs in the illicit traffic.


The narcotic drugs seized in Austria have primarily come from the pre-war German Army stocks.

There is some traffic with Germany and Czechoslovakia. The heavier and more frequent one, however, has been with Italy.

There also appeared in the illicit traffic in Austria synthetic drugs--dolantine tablets--for injection purposes.


Besides seizures of opium and morphine, there are also seizures of Maconha, or Indian hemp.

Maconha is smuggled into Brazilian ports by seamen, and the illicit traffic in this drug is the principal problem facing the Brazilian authorities in the field of narcotic drugs.


Seizures of raw opium in Burma have, as usual, been large. Raw opium seized in Burma comes from Yunnan, Singapore, India, and the Shan States in the eastern part of Burma. The famous wartime "Burma Road" has been used by traffickers to bring opium from the north to Rangoon after passing through Mandalay. Smuggling by air has also been resorted to by the traffickers.


The enforcement of opium and narcotic laws in Canada is on a very efficient plane. Heroin is the principal drug in the illicit traffic in Canada; the balance of the seizures included opium, morphine, codeine, marihuana, and poppy heads. Heroin of the "brown" or Mexican type is frequently encountered.

A fair quantity of the heroin seized is believed to have been smuggled from the United States for distribution, especially to Vancouver. Despite the seizure of 437 grammes of heroin in 1948, large quantities were available on the illicit market.

There is practically no demand in Canada for raw opium, and supplies are very scarce. One seizure in 1948 was of Indian origin.

There has been a considerable increase in the number of persons found in possession of marihuana. Seizures of Indian hemp in bulk, leaves, seeds and cigarettes have also been considerable.


There is illicit traffic in opium from India by sea.


During the Second World War, those parts of the country occupied by the Japanese forces, especially Manchuria and the northern provinces, became centres and sources of illicit traffic in both opium and the manufactured drugs. Farmers in these areas were encouraged, and sometimes forced, to grow the poppy. Drugs manufactured in these areas were smuggled into Free China. After the conclusion of the hostilities, though many large seizures of narcotics were made, clandestine factories destroyed, and poppy plants uprooted, a constant flow of heroin and other narcotic drugs from the northern provinces continued. Farmers continued to plant poppies clandestinely in their rice and wheat fields. In addition, opium, cocaine and other narcotics have been illicitly imported into the country.


In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, Egypt was facing the following situation:

  1. 1. A resurgence of illicit traffic in opium, hashish and manufactured drugs after a slight improvement since 1934;

  2. 2. An increase in number of addicts in the country;

  3. 3. A threat of an influx of hashish as a result of clandestine cultivation in Lebanon;

  4. 4. Mass production of manufactured drugs in the Far East.

During the war, although the illicit importation of heroin ceased owing to the closing of the sea routes, the supply of hashish and opium continued. The cultivation of hashish in Syria constituted a most serious threat to the control of narcotics in Egypt. In 1943 and 1944 the situation improved in Egypt owing to an intensified campaign to destroy hashish plants in Syria and Lebanon.

The situation in 1948 was still serious. Hashish and opium continued to flow into the country through illicit channels by land, sea and air. Seizures of other drugs were also reported.

With respect to the method of concealing drugs, the traffickers now use rubber containers instead of metallic cylinders for concealing hashish or opium, forced through camels' throats.

Indian hemp and opium poppies have been clandestinely grown in Egypt.


The number of seizures of narcotic drugs in 1948 was greater than that in 1947. The increase was due to more intensive measures of suppression exercised by the French authorities. Penalties have been made more severe.

United States Zone

The drugs seized in the illicit traffic within the zone originated in former German Army stocks or in railway trains abandoned by the former German Army. Other sources included thefts and pilferage of legitimate stocks.

Drugs seized in the illicit traffic include dolantine, morphine, cocaine, opium, codeine, heroin and Indian hemp.

British Zone

The source of supply for the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs in this zone has been medical stores abandoned by the German Army.

There has been suspicion and evidence of illicit traffic on a large scale between Germany (British Zone) and Belgium and the Netherlands.

The German Army medical stores provided one of the largest sources of illicit traffic in dolantine. In one store, there were found 3 million tablets of this synthetic drug.


Hashish, heroin, cocaine and opium were found on the illicit market and some hashish was imported from Albania.

Hashish was the most widely used; next came heroin and then cocaine and morphine. Opium was used on a very small scale.

Greece was also a transit point on the air routes of the illicit traffic.


Illicit traffic in Iraq is confined exclusively to hashish from Syria and opium from Iran.


The chief sources of narcotic drugs in Japan were the former Japanese Army and Navy stocks.


The illicit market for narcotic drugs in the Netherlands has become smaller since the end of the war.

There have been illicit imports of cocaine from Germany by way of Belgium, and of Indian hemp (marihuana) on an American ship.

Small amounts of dolantine were also seized, reportedly from Germany.

Raw opium, which was reported to have come from Hong Kong, was also discovered and seized.

New Zealand

The illicit traffic in this country is confined to prepared opium. Fifty-two persons of Chinese origin were prosecuted in 1948 for possession of opium or for smoking it.


Opium was smuggled into Pakistan from India and Afghanistan.


The illicit traffic in the Philippines was largely confined to prepared opium; which is frequently shipped by air.

The seizures of prepared opium in 1948 amounted to only 4 kilogrammes 26 grammes as against seizures of 468 kilogrammes in 1938. One of the sources of the prepared opium was reported to be Thailand.

Other drugs seized were Indian hemp (marihuana), morphine, cocaine and codeine.

The Philippines is also a transit point on the sea routes for illicit traffic in raw opium.

Union of South Africa

One of the most important illicit markets for Indian hemp (dagga) is found in this country. It is smuggled into the country by natives mainly from the adjoining territories, and sold in the large cities of the Union for handsome profits.

A small amount of opium is smuggled into the Union by sea.

United Kingdom

The only regular illicit activity in respect of narcotic drugs has been the unlawful import, by seamen, of opium and Indian hemp. This has been carried on almost exclusively by non-Europeans, chiefly of Chinese, Indian or African origin, and the drugs smuggled were used almost entirely by the smugglers themselves or by their fellow-countrymen. The illicit traffic in narcotics in the United Kingdom is largely confined to the seaport towns, although there have been reports of seizures of Indian hemp in the interior.

United States of America

Illicit markets exist in the United States for raw opium, prepared opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine, codeine, Indian hemp or marihuana and the synthetic drugs.

Raw opium seized in the illicit traffic in the United States is of Indian, Iranian and Turkish origin. Some Mexican raw opium has also been seized. Raw opium is smuggled into the United States primarily by sea, although Mexican opium is smuggled across the border by land.

Mexico was an important source of supply of prepared opium in the years immediately following the Second World War. Before the war, Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore and Kwangchowan were the sources of prepared opium seized in the United States.

Morphine sulphate seized in the United States was largely stolen or diverted from illicit channels. Some morphine tartrate solution was stolen or lost from United States military stores. Morphine hydrochloride of a muddy colour came from clandestine factories in Mexico.

Heroin seized in the United States was primarily of Turkish origin. It was smuggled into the United States by sea. Small lots of Mexican heroin have also been encountered in the illicit market in the United States.

Cocaine seized in the United States was of Peruvian and Italian origin. It was smuggled by sea. As far as Peru is concerned, the situation has, however, improved recently.

Codeine was largely stolen or diverted from legitimate channels, such as pharmacies.

Synthetic drugs such as demerol, metopon and dolophine are used more frequently than before as drugs of addiction.

By far the largest seizures of narcotic drugs in the United States are those of marihuana.



Opium is smuggled from Iran into Yemen and from Yemen into Aden, from which it is smuggled into Egypt by small boats.


There is illicit export of dagga (Indian hemp) to the Union of South Africa.

Federation of Malaya

The illicit traffic in opium and chandu was widespread throughout the Federation of Malaya during 1948. The enormous profit to be gained from this illicit traffic was undoubtedly one of the chief causes of its continuance. Good quality opium sold in some areas at over Malayan $600 ($US285) per pound (453.6 grammes), and good quality chandu for over Malayan $1,000 ($US475) per pound. These prices represented a gross profit of about 1,000 per cent to the organizers of the traffic.

One of the main sources of supply was Thailand, where the Government continued to operate a chandu monopoly. Quantities of opium and chandu also found their way into the Federation from Burma, India, Sumatra, Java and China. Opium has been shipped into the Federation by air from Thailand. It is also smuggled by sea.

There has also been considerable illicit import of ganja into the Federation.

Hong Kong

The colony is predominantly an illicit market for opium, raw and prepared. Raw opium is smuggled in and converted into prepared opium for local consumption.

Ships calling at Hong Kong, carry opium eastward, westward and southward. In this sense, Hong Kong is a junction point on several sea routes of illicit traffic.13


The amount of opium seized in Singapore is still considerable, but the quantity of opium seized which is carried on board ships touching Singapore, is even larger. Many illicit shipments of opium on board ships calling at Singapore from both east and west have been detected and seized, while many more remain undetected and pass on to ports farther along on their illicit routes.

Morphine, cocaine and Indian hemp are also present among the drugs seized in Singapore.


Traffic in opium has not been on the increase. Hashish grows in the forest or bush. There is a considerable traffic in hashish from Equatoria Province to the Northern Sudan. Hashish has also been smuggled from Ethiopia into the southern fringe of the Blue Nile Province.

Trinidad and Tobago

Raw opium (3kilogrammes 628.7 grammes), and prepared opium (2 kilogrammes 494.8 grammes), were smuggled from the United Kingdom.


The illicit market for narcotic drugs has been large. In 1948, seizures consisted of 4 kilogrammes 60 grammes of opium, 122 grammes of heroin, 373 kilogrammes 885 grammes of takrouri and 166 kilogrammes 170 grammes of Indian hemp.

VI. Penalties

Article 2 of the Convention of 1936 for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs, as amended by the Protocol of 4 December 1946, provides that the Parties thereto shall "make the necessary legislative provisions for severely punishing, particularly by imprisonment or other penalties of deprivation of liberty", certain acts including those of the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.

The Advisory Committee of the League of Nations and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations have repeatedly drawn the attention of Governments to the necessity of imposing severe penalties on traffickers.

The penalties imposed upon traffickers vary from country to country and from territory to territory. They may be classified as follows:

  1. Fines (from nominal to heavy);

  2. Imprisonment;

  3. Fines coupled with imprisonment;

  4. Imprisonment, in default of payment of fines;

  5. In rare cases, and in one country only, the death penalty.

The principal factors which underlie the differences in the severity of penalties imposed on traffickers by the courts of various countries seem to be as follows:

  1. The relative importance of the problem of the illicit traffic or of addiction in a country;

  2. The concepts of penal law and their application;

  3. The economic and social conditions;

  4. The organization and efficiency of the special national administration in charge of the suppression of the illicit traffic and the prosecution of the traffickers.

In the light of these differences, it would be impracticable to expect all countries and territories throughout the world to adopt or apply a uniform system of penalties.

It must be borne in mind, however, that the function of penalties is to deter the crime of illicit traffic. Penalties which are obviously inadequate to carry out this function, should of course be replaced by effective and severe penalties.

It is generally admitted that small fines alone are insufficient and short prison terms prove ineffective. In these cases, the economic and social conditions of the individual human carriers of the contraband should count in determining the effectiveness of penalties. Heavier penalties should certainly be imposed upon the traffickers who are the principals or the organizers of the crime, than upon their hirelings, "employees'' or "agents".