Po­lice un­cover Aegean drug route from Eu­rope to Tur­key

An op­er­a­tion by nar­cotics po­lice in western Tur­key has re­vealed how deal­ers smug­gled the syn­thetic drug ‘skunk’ from Euro­pean coun­tries into Tur­key via the Aegean Sea, us­ing boats and a col­lab­o­ra­tor in the army

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - National -

SIX MONTHS of surveil­lance by nar­cotics po­lice in İzmir, Tur­key’s third-largest city si­t­u­ated on the shores of the Aegean Sea, paid off with an op­er­a­tion this week that ended up with the ar­rest of 17 sus­pects. The op­er­a­tion also dis­closed how smug­glers used the Aegean Sea to trans­port the pop­u­lar syn­thetic drug “skunk” into the coun­try from Euro­pean coun­tries.

Po­lice have seized about one ton of skunk in a villa in Ali­ağa dis­trict in the op­er­a­tion and along with 16 sus­pects, de­tained a ma­jor from the Turk­ish army’s gen­darmerie forces. Anadolu Agency (AA) re­ported that the po­lice launched the raid against the gang of smug­glers af­ter they trans­ported drugs from an un­spec­i­fied coun­try to Foça dis­trict first.

The sus­pects then loaded the ship­ment to a truck and took it to a villa in Ali­ağa while set­ting aside a por­tion for ship­ment to other cities. When the sus­pects moved to carry the drugs again from villa, po­lice stormed the place. B.Ö., iden­ti­fied only by his ini­tials, was among the sus­pects and po­lice sources said he was a gen­darme ma­jor and pre­vi­ously served as com­man­der of a gar­ri­son in İzmir’s Karşıyaka dis­trict. B.Ö. had ar­rived in İzmir from an­other city he was sta­tioned shortly be­fore the planned ship­ment and is ac­cused of act­ing as a col­lab­o­ra­tor with the gang, us­ing his job ti­tle to help them avoid cap­ture.

Four for­eign­ers in­clud­ing three Syr­i­ans, were also among the sus­pects and they claimed they were paid to un­load and load the ship­ment and were un­aware of the con­tents of the cargo they car­ried. An uniden­ti­fied for­eigner who co­or­di­nated the ship­ment of the drugs from Euro­pean coun­tries re­mains at large while the gang’s Turk­ish leader was among those de­tained.

Skunk is a ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or hy­brid strain of cannabis and re­port­edly new pop­u­lar drug among Turk­ish users. Named for its strong smell, this new drug has been grad­u­ally re­plac­ing bon­zai, a read­ily avail­able syn­thetic drug whose use was preva­lent es­pe­cially among young­sters over the past five years.

Nar­cotics po­lice stepped up their crack­down on drug deal­ers and the rings sup­ply­ing them amid the coun­try’s mo­bi­liza­tion cam­paign against all types of il­le­gal sub­stances. Bon­zai use has de­clined some 80 per­cent but skunk, mar­keted as “or­ganic” by ped­dlers, is viewed as an ef­fec­tive re­place­ment. Na­tion­wide data is not avail­able, but in Istanbul, the coun­try’s most pop­u­lated city, po­lice seized more than 3.9 tons of skunk in 2017 and 2018.

The drug is far more harm­ful than stan­dard cannabis, ex­perts say. Its source is dis­puted, though it is be­lieved to have been de­vel­oped in the United States be­fore it was brought to the Nether­lands, the mar­i­juana cap­i­tal of Eu­rope. Like cannabis, it can be grown in­doors with spe­cial light­ing and tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled rooms.

As a tran­sit coun­try for drug smug­glers work­ing be­tween Asia and Eu­rope, Tur­key is look­ing to curb do­mes­tic drug use. In 2014, the gov­ern­ment launched “The Rapid Ac­tion Plan against Drugs” to counter drug abuse and smug­gling. The ac­tion plan cov­ers all as­pects of the strug­gle against nar­cotics, from rais­ing aware­ness of their dan­gers and curb­ing de­mand to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and treat­ment of ad­dicts and fa­cil­i­tat­ing so­cial in­clu­sion. It also paved the way for the es­tab­lish­ment of “narco teams,” spe­cial­ized po­lice units ac­tive in neigh­bor­hoods where drug sales are con­cen­trated.

Po­lice dis­played the drugs and guns seized in the op­er­a­tions at a press con­fer­ence Jan. 11.

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