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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Suspicion of attempting to smuggle drugs arrests in Morocco

The Cyprus Foreign Ministry has confirmed that five Cypriots have been arrested in Morocco on suspicion of attempting to smuggle drugs out of the North African country. The Cypriots – whose ages are still unknown but are said to be over “18 years of age” – were arrested last week as they attempted to leave the country and are said to be looking at criminal charges relating to drug trafficking. Although the exact amount was unconfirmed, sources yesterday suggested that the group attempted to smuggle 15 kilos of hashish out of one of the country’s airports. “We can confirm that five Cypriots have been detained in Morocco and we are liaising with our Embassy in Paris, which is also responsible for Morocco, in an attempt to stay in contact with the individuals,” Ministry official Petros Kestoras told The Cyprus Daily on Tuesday. “We are as yet still unaware as to the exact amount of illegal substances they are said to have reportedly attempted to smuggle. We are also unaware of the exact substances. We do know that criminal procedures are ongoing and that the five individuals are obviously in police custody.” Morocco is one of 32 countries that impose capital punishment for offences involving the illegal importing, exporting, sale, or possession of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. But there has only been only one execution since 1983, and it happened in 1993. A total of 198 people were sentenced to death between 1956 and 1993, although there was an 11 year lull in executions between January 1982 and August 1993. The issue over capital punishment is a hot topic in Morocco. Officially, the stance of the current government is for "de facto" abolition but the Ministry of Justice has declared that terrorism is still an obstacle to "de jure" abolition. Figures from the US State Department claim that – until 2010 - a total of 104 inmates were on death row. According to a United Nations report, Morocco is a major source for cannabis, of which several hundreds tons reach mainly European markets every year.

Cannabis cultivation is concentrated in the underdeveloped region of the Rif in the North, for which the Government has adopted a national five-year development programme. In addition to the significant illicit trafficking of cannabis resin, the country is affected by growing international trafficking of heroin and cocaine and by related organised crime, including money laundering. As the main supplier country, “Morocco has long been a popular route by which drugs enter Europe”. It is a transit point for the ‘hashish’ consumed in Europe, but also of other illegal drugs principally coming from Latin America and East Asia.

The coast of Spain is the most common landing point of the drug, and to a less extent France, United Kingdom and other European countries Back in December 2012, Spanish police seized eleven metric tons of hashish smuggled from Morocco on trucks with tanks rigged to hide the drugs. Thirty five people were arrested in what was described as the breakup of a major smuggling ring that fed the European market.

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