LONDON: Europe has become one of the biggest drug-producing regions in the world, according to new ecstasy seizure statistics from the US.

The latest figures from the American Drugs Enforcement Administration reveal that more than 10 million ecstasy tablets were seized in the US last year, of which 80 per cent were manufactured in Europe. In 1999 the DEA seized three million tablets. In 1993 they seized 196.

The new statistics reveal the massive boom in ecstasy production and export from Europe in recent years. In the year 2000, 27.5 million ecstasy tablets were among 10,000 kilos of drugs produced in Europe and seized overseas. That total is expected to have nearly doubled.

In Europe itself 17m tablets were seized in 2000, 50 per cent more than in 1999.

The ecstasy smuggled from Europe to the US is worth more than $4.5 billion. Some comes from Britain or is trafficked by gangs with connections in the UK, according to European police sources.

British couriers are often used by gangs because they do not arouse suspicion. A wheelchair bound 81-year-old woman arrested in February on a British Airways flight at Miami Airport has been charged with trying to smuggle nearly 10,000 ecstasy tablets.

The massive production of ecstasy in Europe, particularly in and around the Dutch city Maastricht, is causing tensions between transatlantic law enforcement officials and policy makers. A recent report compiled by Europol, the European criminal intelligence service, says ‘the manufacture and export of synthetic drugs (such as ecstasy) is likely to become the major drugs problem of this decade’.

The report admits that ‘trafficking of ecstasy produced in the European Union has reached a global dimension.’

In recent months there have been seizures of European ecstasy in Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Mexico, Suriname, Brazil and several other countries.—Dawn/The Guardian News Service.

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