Taliban reap $100m in opium taxes: report
* Opium worth hundreds of millions of dollars unaccounted for
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: United Nations’ estimates show that Taliban made some $100 million from drug trade in 2007, reports BBC News
Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says the insurgents raised the money by imposing a 10 percent tax on farmers in areas controlled by them. According to UN estimates Afghanistan’s poppy harvest last year was worth $1bn. Mr Costa said the Taliban made even more money from other activities related to the opium trade. “One is protection to laboratories and the other is that the insurgents offer protection to cargo, moving opium across the border,” Mr Costa told the BBC’s File on 4 programme.
The final figures for this year’s harvest have yet to be released but yield and proceeds are likely to be down due to drought, infestation and a poppy ban enforced in the north and east of Afghanistan. This would lower revenue, “but not enormously”, Mr Costa said. The past few years have seen abundant yields from poppy farming, with Afghan farmers cultivating more than the global demand. “Last year Afghanistan produced about 8,000 tonnes of opium,” Mr Costa said.
Missing opium: “The world in the past few years has consumed about 4,000 tonnes in opium, this leaves a surplus. “It is stored somewhere and not with the farmers,” he added. The stockpiles represent hundreds of millions of dollars and it is not known whether they are possessed by traffickers, corrupt Afghan officials and politicians or the Taliban. British officials say that drugs money funds the Taliban military operations.
“The closer we look at it, the closer we see the insurgents [are] to the drugs trade,” said David Belgrove, head of counter narcotics at the British embassy in Kabul. “We can say that a lot of their arms and ammunition are being funded directly by the drugs trade.”