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On South Africa’s streets, a gram of heroin will cost be­tween R150 and R250. The whole­sale price is be­tween R180 000 and R250 000 a kilo­gram.

“Heroin is a very pure form of drug,” Cap­tain Mark de Bruin told the court. “You can’t use pure heroin – it has to be cut. This also in­creases your mass, so there are big profit mar­gins in heroin.”

UNODC fig­ures show heroin prices in­crease dra­mat­i­cally as it moves along the traf­fick­ing routes, with prices com­pen­sat­ing smug­glers for the risks they run of hav­ing their prod­uct in­ter­cepted.

“The value of heroin in the UK means that South African crime groups can af­ford to lose around six to seven out of ev­ery 10 pack­ages traf­ficked, and can still make a profit,” UNODC says.

De­mand for heroin in the US is dras­ti­cally in­creas­ing, in part be­cause of a crack­down on pre­scrip­tion drug use, which is push­ing drug users to­wards cheaper al­ter­na­tives like heroin.

“In 2014, na­tion­wide kilo­gram prices for South Amer­i­can heroin ranged from a low of $10 000 per kilo­gram to a high of $120 000 per kilo­gram,” a spokesper­son for the DEA said.

Al­though Mark paid $10 000 for 10kgs of heroin, court records show this was only to move the drugs from Tan­za­nia to South Africa. At least an­other $55 000 was al­legedly elec­tron­i­cally trans­ferred to Ba­sit.

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