Measures against diversion of chemicals under control

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 2002 report on ‘chemicals under control’ notes that most exporting countries now provide export data, but that, unfortunately, France, which previously provided comprehensive data on its exports of controlled substances, did not supply such data for 2001. Most exporter countries submitted data on precursors used for manufacturing amphetamine-type stimulants. Data on the export of norephedrine, which for the first time in 2000 was included in Table I of the INCB report (imposing pre-export notifications), were provided by Denmark, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom. In addition, most of the P-2-P and safrole EU producer countries submitted data (84). Governments continued to achieve successes in preventing diversion of potassium permanganate (85), used for the illegal manufacturing of cocaine, in particular through Operation Purple. In 2001, the number of shipments and the volume of trade monitored decreased (86).

Seven illicit laboratories manufacturing potassium permanganate were dismantled in Colombia under Operation Purple, from April to September 2002. As potassium permanganate becomes more difficult to divert from licit trade, cocaine producers attempt to manufacture this chemical themselves.

The international operation, Operation Topaz, which monitors traffic of acetic anhydride (87), continues to function well in terms of both international tracking of licit shipments and law-enforcement investigations to trace the origin of seized, or intercepted, chemical shipments. Between January and November 2002, 2 800 export shipments were reported, involving nearly 300 000 tonnes of acetic anhydride. Belgium and the Netherlands, where the majority of consignments originated, were particularly helpful in ensuring that the international tracking programme functioned smoothly. The majority of the transactions take place between EU Member States, and a total of 92 % of the monitored shipments were reported by EU Member States. The concentration of licit trade within the EU and the success of the control procedures of Operation Topaz have led to a review to find a viable alternative to the shipment-by-shipment tracking within the EU.

Europol believes that up to 90 % of heroin seized on the EU markets originates from south-west Asia (Afghanistan). Despite efforts to eradicate opium cultivation, production in 2002 is believed to have amounted to 3 400 metric tonnes. Taking into account the fact that some of the acetic anhydride diverted from licit supply channels is smuggled into Afghanistan, an international task force from Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States was established to provide technical assistance in combating trafficking in this region.

During 2001 over 200 tonnes of acetic anhydride was seized. This is the largest amount ever reported for a single year. The largest single seizure was reported by the United Kingdom, when an attempted diversion of 70 tonnes to Yugoslavia was uncovered. Other European countries reporting seizures of acetic anhydride were Belgium, Germany, Italy and Slovenia.

To help prevent diversion of chemical precursors used in manufacturing amphetamine-type stimulants, such as ephedrine, norephedrine and 3,4-MDP-2-P, INCB, in co-operation with the European Commission and the United States, agreed to initiate a voluntary international project, Project Prism, to assist governments in achieving this goal (88).


(84)  Box 18 OL: Measures against diversion of chemicals under control (INCB).

(85)  Potassium permanganate is a licit compound that is an important reagent in analytical and synthetic organic chemistry; it is used in bleaching applications, disinfectants and antibacterial and antifungal agents. It is also used in water purification processes.

(86)  Box 19 OL: Operation Purple.

(87)  Acetic anhydride is an acetylating and dehydrating agent used in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries for the manufacture of cellulose acetate, in textile sizing agents and cold bleaching activators, for polishing metals and in the production of brake fluids, dyes and explosives.

(88Box 20 OL: INCB.