The Smugglers of Misery – Part III

The Smugglers of Misery – Part III

The major quantity of the heroin used in the United States originates in the poppy fields of Turkey, where licensed farmers supply raw opium for pharmaceutical purposes. Many of the same farmers also sell to black-market brokers who use mules and camels to transport the sticky, malodorous opium into Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. There, in clandestine laboratories, it is converted into a crude morphine, reducing its bulk by 90%, and is subsequently smuggled by merchant seamen to the sough of France. In the area around Marseille, several groups of Corsicans employ skilled scientists to turn the morphine into heroin.

From France the heroin is shipped to the United States, often by circuitous routes through Mexico, South America or Canada. It is carried on tramp steamers and jet planes, in diplomatic pouches and home freezers, By the time it reaches the street, diluted time and again, a kilo of heroin that wholesales for $10,000 may bring more than a third of a million dollars.

U.S. street sales of heroin have been pegged at about $1.5 billion a year. Behind much of this traffic is La Cosa Nostra, whose smuggling and wholesaling profits are estimated at $90 million a year, Says Anthony Scaduto, a top authority on organized crime: The men of the Mafia are at the top of the pyramid that makes up the international narcotics racket. They ‘invest’ in it with funds from their hidden gambling interests, their illegal gambling empires, their loan-sharking and extortion and myriad other rackets. They are the financiers”, They never touch narcotics themselves.

A case in point is John S. Nuccio, a pudgy, manicured racketeer who directed an international heroin operation. Nuccio supplied the money for the drugs – anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000 a trip – to an Air France steward who shuttled back and forth from Paris to New York. Deliveries were made not to Nuccio but to third parties. Apprehended, the steward agree to cooperate with federal authorities. Only then was it possible to convict Nucfdio, who is now seriving 15 years in prison.

Claims have been made in recent years that La Cosa Nostra is getting out of narcotics to concentrate on less dangerous enterprises. Actually, while the mob is no longer involved in the street-sale stages of heroin distribution,”most of the importation and virtually all of the wholesaling remain in Mafia hands”, according to William T. Tendy, the assistant U.S. Attorney who has prosecuted many of the country’s major drug cases in recent years.

The techniques of heroin importation are varied. A group of French smugglers shipped a 1962 Citroen back and forth between Paris and New York with as much as 246 lbs of heroin hidden in compartments that could be opened only if a certain upholstery button was twisted. Diplomats, who can move easily through U.S. Customs, are often used as couriers; in fact, envoys from Mexico and Uruguay are currently serving federal prison terms on narcotics charges.

See ‘The Smugglers of Misery – Part IV’

 Source: The Reader’s Digest, April 1970, by William Schulz

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