Central Europe's largest heroin ring busted, police say


The Albanian leader of a gang accused of smuggling heroin to the Czech Republic was arrested in Prague on Saturday. Twenty members of the gang, which police claim was the biggest operating in Central Europe, have been arrested over the past three months, and customs officials on the Czech-German border have seized a total of 82 kilogrammes of heroin. Saturday's operation was the latest in a series of high-profile drug busts, as Olga Szantova reports.

The list of arrests and drug seizures is a long one, and in many cases those arrested have turned out to be international drug dealers - all of which shows that the Czech Republic has become an important crossroads as well as an emerging market for the international drugs business. Just a few months ago, in February, police arrested five leading members of a huge international organisation smuggling drugs into Western Europe.

At the end of January seven people involved in producing the Czech-made amphetamine Pervitine were arrested and large amounts of the drug were seized. In October 20 kilogrammes of heroin were found on four dealers, two of them foreigners. The amount of drugs seized and the number of dealers arrested is considerable, but do the busts have any impact on supply and demand on the streets? Dr Ivan Douda is from Prague's Drop In centre, where many drug addicts come for help.

"It can't have any impact whatsoever on the drug scene, certainly not on any long-term level. The drug market involves enormous sums of money and it will flourish regardless of any arrests."

Dr Douda stressed that the drug trade is just like any other trade. Where there is demand there will always be supply. Bigger and bigger amounts of drugs can be seized, but there will always be more where they came from. Police reports on successful crackdowns sound impressive, but they do not, he says, actually change anything.

"The only solution is in tackling both sides. Obviously some repressive measures have to be taken against the dealers, but it is even more important to deal with the customers, to help people who take drugs, and, above all, to stop young people from taking up the habit."

Dr. Douda says that the Czech Republic is only learning how to do that and too much effort is being spent on repressive measures. But the biggest problem, Dr. Douda says, is the growing number of young people experimenting with drugs. Some 60 to 80 percent of 18 year olds have some experience with drugs, in most cases marihuana. And no amount of drugs seized nor number of dealers arrested can change that.

Author: Olga Szantová
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