Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at the launch of Drug Money: the illicit proceeds of opiates trafficked on the Balkans route

26 November 2015


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to join you today for the launch of the UNODC publication: Drug Money: The illicit proceeds of opiates trafficked on the Balkans route.

As the report makes clear huge profits are made from the flow of opiates from their source in Afghanistan and along the so-called Balkans route to Western and Central Europe.    

The UNODC study estimates that the total monetary value of illicit opiates trafficked along this route is worth US$28 billion annually. A figure greater than the Gross Domestic Product of Afghanistan.

But, as the report also notes, Afghanistan's opiate production is part of a much bigger problem.

Opiate trafficking has a negative economic impact along the entire Balkans trafficking route.

One that is actually greater than Afghanistan's problem because criminal organizations operating outside the country have greater reach and financial impact than those operating within Afghanistan.

As an example, the four largest European markets for opiates, when viewed together, account for nearly half of the gross profit generated by opiate trafficking along the Balkans route.

I, therefore, welcome this report. Solid analysis and detailed information are vital for understanding the scale of the problem and for designing clear and comprehensive solutions.

One solution is a renewed emphasis on disrupting the financial flows and concentrating on money laundering. Removing the criminal profit, and in taking away the criminal's incentive is essential.    

UNODC is experienced at undertaking research that builds a detailed picture of the problem, while assisting Member States by providing effective and tailored projects and programmes.

There is a need. UNODC's recent Afghanistan Opium Survey 2015 has shown that cultivation and production of opium from the country declined. This is welcome news.

But the Afghan government and the international community, including Balkans route countries, need to commit themselves to further close cooperation at the strategic and operational levels.

If this is done, I see a real window of opportunity for us to capitalise on this welcome development and to turn it into an ongoing trend. But, I also acknowledge it will take a massive joint effort that requires resources and funding.

UNODC is currently helping through its regional programmes, including West and Central Asia, as well as the country programme for Afghanistan and the regional programme for Afghanistan and  neighbouring countries.

Our renewed South Eastern European programme, which is also being launched today, provides a solid foundation for our regional activities.

The illicit drug trade is linked to many other transnational organized crimes such as cultural property, oil and other natural resources and helps to finance acts of terrorism and extremism.

To confront these issues in a comprehensive manner, we need to be nimble and adaptive. Our Inter-regional drug control approach is creating fresh opportunities using these methods.  

Under the umbrella of this programme, UNODC's "networking the networks" initiative is creating opportunities for cooperation in real time across countries, regions and indeed the globe.

Fundamental to this work is greater connectivity among key organizations along the trafficking routes.

The initiative brings together agencies from around the world, including CARICC, JPC and GCC CIC, as well as Europol, and INTERPOL, among many others.

Co-managed by UNODC and the World Customs Organization, the container control programme has significantly increased the detection and confiscation of drugs and other illicit goods.

At present, the CCP is operational in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. In Albania, in particular, there have been a number of successes, including the seizure of 31.2 kg of heroin.

Although operating outside the Balkans region our Maritime Crime Programme is also growing to help states disrupt trafficking flows.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Information precedes action. We must use the research and analysis contained in this report to sharpen our efforts and deal a significant blow to the criminals trafficking in opiates along the Balkans route.

To do this, we must seize their profits, while also preventing the movement of opiates, and promoting science-based prevention and treatment for those suffering from drug use.

Thank you.