Major drug network busted in Macedonia
Europol announced on Monday that it has busted a major heroin-smuggling network based in Macedonia, including distribution hubs in Austria and Germany, with the arrests of 400 people.
The joint investigation team set out to permanently destroy the criminal organisation in the former Macedonia as well as its cells in Vienna and Frankfurt. The law enforcement team operated at these locations as well as in Rotterdam.
Afghanistan is the primary source of heroin encountered in the EU; there is significant trafficking towards Europe of heroin that has exited Afghanistan via the borders with Pakistan and Iran, the latter offering the shortest and most direct route to Europe.
Heroin is also transported from Pakistan to European consumer countries by air, and cells of Pakistani origin traffic heroin to Europe using a variety of transportation options that enable them to react flexibly to changes in law enforcement activity.
From Iran, heroin is smuggled across the border with Turkey and reaches Europe travelling along the Balkan Route. Much of this heroin transits Bulgaria via the former Yugoslavia and Slovenia to Italy or Austria, or via Macedonia and Albania to Italy, or via Romania, Hungary or Ukraine to Slovakia/Czech Republic or Poland, and then to Austria or Germany.
According to data released by Europol, about a third of all organized crime groups operating in the EU are involved in the production and distribution of drugs.
Drug trafficking continues to be very profitable, despite a moderate decline in the level of heroin use. The market value of illicit opiates in the EU is estimated at €12 billion.