Source: Reuter

British expert says Moroccan cannabis reaching UK

RABAT, June 30 (Reuter)  A British drugs expert said on Monday about 60
percent of the cannabis resin reaching Britain came from Morocco despite the
two countries having good police and customs cooperation. 

Britain's International Drugs Coordinator Derek Plumbly told Reuters: ``I
believe 1,500 to 3,000 tonnes (of cannabis resin) are produced in Morocco

``We have very good cooperation policetopolice and customs tocustoms, but
you have a very large area of cultivation,'' he said, adding that the
production figures were a very rough estimate. 

``About 60 percent of the cannabis resin reaching the United Kingdom comes
from Morocco.'' 

Last month, Morocco's interior ministry announced it had drafted a law
increasing the maximum jail term for drug traffickers to 30 years from 10
years, with a maximum fine of 800,000 dirhams ($85,000) 

Morocco said it did not have the money to tackle redevelopment of the drug
producer area in the northern Rif region, and there was a European Union
programme to try to help development, he said. There were also training
programmes for drugs control. 

Moroccan Prime Minister Abdellatif Filali has announced a government plan to
invest 1.5 billion dirhams ($160 million) in 1997/98 to upgrade the northern
region's infrastructure. 

Plumbly, appointed to his position 11 months ago, said he was in Morocco as
part of a tour of ``all the main producer and transit countries.'' 

He was holding talks with Morocco's interior and justice ministries, the
agency involved in development of north Morocco, the national security agency
and the antidrug coordination unit, the embassy said. 

Plumbly said his visit was arranged long before last week's find on a
Casablanca beach of three tonnes of pure cocaine in plastic bags. 

``I don't think anybody yet knows the background to this,'' he said. ``One
would assume that it was headed for western Europe not Morocco and that
something happened at sea.'' 

The antinarcotics experts, who has visited the cocaine producing countries
of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, estimated the street value of three tonnes of
cocaine at 200 million sterling pounds ($332 million). 

Morocco launched a crackdown on drug smuggling last year, and Interior
Minister Driss Basri said recently it had seized 103 tonnes of cannabis bound
for Europe in 1996. It had also arrested more than 18,000 drug traffickers,
including 342 foreigners.