Crime & Justice

Kazakh police intensify efforts to combat drug crimes, trafficking

By Aydar Ashimov

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Police May 14 seize poppy being grown by a resident of Turkistan Province. [Kazakh Interior Ministry]

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh law enforcement is continuing to seize illegal drugs as part of its campaign to crack down on drug trafficking and money laundering in the country.

In the past five months, officials confiscated 1,183kg of various narcotic substances including heroin, synthetic drugs, hashish and marijuana, the Kazakh Interior Ministry (MVD) said in a statement on May 12.

"The criminal activity of four organised criminal groups in drug trafficking has been stopped," the ministry said. "In addition, we have discovered 20 instances of propaganda or illegal advertising of narcotic drugs and a case of money laundering."

In addition to the toll that the use of illegal drugs exacts on society and its vulnerable members, terrorists and their sympathisers routinely resort to money laundering and drug trafficking to facilitate their campaigns of violence.

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A field of poppy cultivated by a resident of Turkistan Province can be seen May 14. [Kazakh Interior Ministry]

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Seized bottles filled with marijuana are displayed by police on April 10 in Zhambyl Province. [Kazakh Interior Ministry]

At the end of 2019, the National Security Committee (KNB) in Kazakhstan screened a documentary film titled "The Price of Peace", which addressed the financing of terrorism by criminal entities.

The series included the story of the uncovering of a criminal group producing drugs, with its boss residing in Russia. The ring distributed the drugs in Kazakhstan and shipped them by mail to other countries.

Raids on the rise

Illegal drug activities in Kazakhstan intensified in May as drug plants begin to grow and mature. Police have increased raids to prevent the distribution of narcotics in response.

On May 14, police in Turkistan Province seized 62kg of poppy, used in the production of heroin and other drugs, from an 80-year-old local resident, said the MDVD. The pensioner is accused of growing 5,000 poppy plants in the yard of his private home.

The same day, two local residents in Zhambyl Province were detained, one of whom sold 1kg of hashish to the other, said police.

Home production and sale of synthetic drugs have grown steadily, according to the KNB.

On May 12, Kazakh police detained a drug dealer in Pavlodar Province for selling synthetic narcotics through the use of social networks, said the MVD. He allegedly hid drugs in Aksu city and then informed customers about their location.

On the same day in Pavlodar city, police detained a drug dealer in possession of heroin and synthetic drugs and confiscated more than 5,000 doses of narcotic substances from him, according to the MVD.

Meanwhile, Operation Koknar (Poppy), conducted annually from June to October to identify drug transit channels and prevent the harvest, processing and distribution of hemp in the Chuy Valley, will take place as usual despite the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine measures.

"Operation Koknar, which law enforcement agencies carries out every year, is a reliable bulwark in the fight against the narcotics business," said Ruslan Seksenbayev of Taraz, director of the non-governmental organisation Beibit Aspan (Peaceful Sky).

"Thanks to these efforts, [police] seize tonnes of drugs every year, which do not end up on the black market and do not kill people," he said.

In the years of Kazakhstan's independence, the country has gained extensive experience in combating illegal drugs and dealers, said Seksenbayev.

The police "use special equipment and service dogs", he said. "They reconnoiter the Chuy Valley from helicopters and drones."

In addition, "they adopt the experience of colleagues from the former Soviet Union and other countries. All these mechanisms have already been fine-tuned," said Seksenbayev.

Destructive impact

The importance of this year's Operation Koknar in combating drug trafficking was a topic at a meeting of security agencies in Taraz on May 7, according to the Zhambyl provincial administration.

"The drug business has an increasingly destructive impact on the development of society and stimulates the growth of crime and violence," Zhambyl Province Prosecutor Nurgalym Abdirov said during the meeting.

"Growing wild hemp in large areas and the smuggling and transporting of narcotics are increasingly becoming of paramount importance and require intensifying the fight against them," the administration said in a statement.

The use of modern pesticides to destroy two hectares of wild hemp is currently being tested, though environmentalists must conclude that this method is safe for large-scale use in the Chuy Valley, the administration said.

To carry out Operation Koknar, authorities have drawn up plans to develop a regional programme to combat the drug trade and increase the number of mounted police patrols, it added.

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It's enough to walk down the grim neighbourhoods in any town to see the real picture - syringes littered behind apartment building doors and in playgrounds;" ads spray painted on walls - that's what "the consumer" has. And it comes from both the town's own "backyard" and overseas. It's profitable for the whole chain; [police] seize tiny bits, most of [the drugs] get into circulation. Maybe we should deal with it like in the Philippines: tough yet efficient, with those involved in narcotraffic wasted and their relatives forced to work in funeral services, making caskets and whatnot. Is change even possible for us? The very fact of sales volume growth directly attests to the drug networks "protection racket." And then we are surprised by terrorists having so much money...

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Drugs should have been put to an end a long time ago, we need to punish drug crimes with life imprisonment like the Arab countries and China

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