WASHINGTON(Panorama.am) — Azerbaijan remains a transit country for illicit narcotics given its location along major drug trafficking routes from Afghanistan and Iran to Europe and Russia, according to the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) released by the US Department of State.
According to the report, Azerbaijan is increasingly favored as a transit route for drugs over neighbors such as Turkey, which has strengthened its border controls in recent years. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs estimated in 2014 that between 5.8 and seven metric tons (MT) of illegal drugs transit Azerbaijan annually, much of it through the country’s southern border with Iran.
Drug seizures and arrest statistics for the first six months of 2015 suggest similar trends from previous years. Over this six-month period, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported investigations of 1807 drug related criminal acts, including 478 drug sales committed by 22 criminal groups consisting of 77 persons. This resulted in over 1250 drug related convictions. Of these convictions, 88.7 percent were unemployed and not enrolled in any educational institution. Recidivists accounted for 37.1 percent of the convictions, and 1.2 percent involved women, the Department of State notes.
Azerbaijani media reported two large-scale marijuana seizures in early 2015. Over 1.45 MT of marijuana were seized in the Dashkesan region and over 3.6 MT of marijuana in the Goranboy region. Comprehensive seizure statistics for 2015 were not available at the time of this report.
According to a UN report, “Northern Balkan Route” of drug trafficking from Afghanistan to Europe lies precisely through Azerbaijan. Drugs freely cross Azerbaijan-Turkey-Iran route. The second, “Old Balkan Route” lies straight through Iran to Turkey. People engaged in the smuggling are mainly assisted by the Azerbaijani and Kurdish population of northern Iran. The third way is through Azerbaijan and the Caucasus which lies through the Turkmen seaport after Turkmenbashi, in Baku. Here the drugs are easily smuggled into Russia.
Moreover, the telegram to former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Anne Derse, which was published by WikiLeaks, read that the drug mafia in Russia is largely controlled by ethnic Azerbaijanis.