Customs authorities at the Mersin port, Turkey's gateway to the eastern Mediterranean, seized 14.8 tons of acetic anhydride, a chemical agent used in production of heroin.
The seizure yesterday was the result of a search for a truck carrying chemical materials imported from abroad. The truck was aboard a Turkish-flagged vessel which arrived at the port from Italy.
Authorities confiscated the acetic anhydride which was originally declared to customs as monomer, another chemical compound, inside plastic cans in the truck. The seized amount can be used for the production of some 7.5 tons of heroin. Anadolu Agency (AA) reported that the compound was loaded onto the truck from the Netherlands. The driver of the truck was detained by authorities.
Turkey is a transit route for drug smuggling between Europe and Asia. Within the first six months of this year, 24.6 tons of drugs were seized by customs officials. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says the Balkan route that traverses Iran, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria across southeastern Europe to the western European market is a main heroin trafficking corridor. Smugglers, often those working for terrorist groups or aided by them, mostly use ships and trucks for transporting drugs to and from Turkey. The escalation of security measures along Turkey's southern border with war-torn Syria curbed smuggling but shipments of illegal drugs via the Aegean and Mediterranean seas remain a concern for Turkish authorities.
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