Submitted by HM Customs and Excise
1. This memorandum is in response to the
invitation from the Home Affairs Select Committee to give evidence
to its inquiry "The Government's drugs policy: Is it Working?".
2. HM Customs and Excise (HMCE) is at the
centre of the Government's efforts to reduce drug supply. It is
the lead agency in support of the Financial Secretary's position
as Minister accountable for the Availability leg of the strategy.
In tackling the problem we have taken a strategic approach, treating
drugs trafficking as a business and targeting opportunities to
discourage and reduce the trade throughout the supply chain. In
accordance with the Government's drugs strategy priority is given
to Class "A" drugs, particularly heroin and cocaine.
3. As well as focusing clearly on Class
"A" drugs and related funding flows we direct our efforts
at taking out significant bulk consignments of drugsat
all stages in the supply chain including at the UK frontiers,
and having those responsible caught and punished. In this way
we are having a bigger impact on the supply of drugs to the UK.
We also aim to reduce the profitability of drug trafficking by
tackling all three strands of the money side of the drugs trade:
border detections of cash;
drugs-related money laundering; and
4. The Government's drug strategy has posed
a considerable challenge. For the first time we are committed
to intercepting Class "A" drugs and money to an extent
necessary to have a real impact in reducing supply. Success depends
on a co-ordinated/multi-agency/end-to-end strategic approach.
5. The drugs business has the following
stages or structure:
6. Our work upstream of the UK frontier,
in partnership with law enforcement agencies overseas, is a major
plank of our strategy. It is here that we can often hit traffickers
when they are more vulnerable and are moving larger quantities.
7. HMCE chairs the Concerted Inter-agency
Drugs Action (CIDA) group, which has developed an end- to-end
strategy to tackle the drug trafficking business at all the above
stages. The group drives the work of the various agencies to remove
any overlaps or gaps in enforcement effort.
8. CIDA comprises representatives from all
government departments and agencies who have a role in reducing
drug availability; including HM Customs and Excise, the National
Crime Squad (NCS), the National Criminal Intelligence Service
(NCIS), the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency (SDEA), the Metropolitan
Police, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the former
UK Anti-Drug Co-ordinator's Unit, Home Office, Cabinet Office,
FCO, and other agencies.
9. CIDA has developed comprehensive action
plans to tackle heroin and cocaine which bring together action
in the following areas:
intelligence and interdiction operations
in key heroin and cocaine source and transit regions;
diplomatic initiatives including
programmes to develop law enforcement capabilities in source and
transit regions and support for illicit crop monitoring;
activity to improve our knowledge
of cocaine and heroin distribution and identify and address gaps
in current knowledge;
targeting of major heroin and cocaine
traffickers who impact on the UK;
distribution activity targeted at
middle market and local level dealers and distributors;
depriving criminals of the proceeds
of their crimes and disrupting the movement of drug-related money
activity against pre-cursor chemicals.
10. CIDA is examining the scope for a similar
approach to Class "A" synthetic drugs (ecstasy), and
is developing a specific operational approach to the problems
posed by the cocaine which feeds the UK crack market.
11. There is excellent co-operation between
the agencies through CIDA and a truly joined up approach is being
taken with agencies at all levels working to reduce drugs availability.
12. About 45 per cent of HMCE Law Enforcement
effort is devoted to combating Class "A" drugs, divided
into Detection, Investigation and Intelligence functions.
13. The Detection function of Customs and
Excise is responsible for anti-smuggling controls in respect of
drugs and other prohibited goods, principally at the frontier.
Investigation are the criminal investigation arm of Customs and
Excise. Their main responsibilities in the area of drugs offences
are the investigation of significant detections of drugs and related
organised criminal groups and the identification and confiscation
of proceeds of crime.
14. To ensure our operations have maximum
impact all drugs investigations include an investigation into
the finances of traffickers with the aim of depriving them of
the illicit proceeds of their crime and ensuring that investigations
have maximum impact.
15. The Investigation and Intelligence functions
play a key role in the CIDA strategies and work in partnership
with the CIDA agencies and law enforcement agencies overseas to
disrupt the flow of drugs to the UK and related proceeds. The
Intelligence function provides intelligence support across the
range of Customs' activities through the provision of strategic,
tactical and operational intelligence to inform the Department's
activity against drug trafficking.
16. In conjunction with the CIDA agencies
and intelligence agencies overseas, Intelligence are undertaking
projects to gain a better understanding of the drugs market to
support the planned operational activity. One aspect of this is
a project to map out and quantify cocaine and heroin flows to
the UK which will provide the opportunity to attack trafficking
at the most vulnerable points in the UK and overseas.
17. Intelligence also have responsibility
for deployment and operation of Custom's overseas network of Drugs
Liaison Officers. We have 61 officers deployed in 41 key drug
source and transit regions throughout the world with further posts
planned. These officers contribute intelligence to support overseas
and UK investigations. They also provide assistance to host agencies
in support of the programmes of joint activity set up by CIDA.
DLO activity has contributed to the seizure of substantial amounts
of heroin and cocaine destined for UK markets.
18. The International Assistance Unit of
HMCE co-ordinates the provision of drugs-related technical assistance
to customs administrations overseas by way of short term consultancies,
training and long terms placements. This assistance covers a range
of activities including intelligence training, surveillance and
risk profiling in support of the CIDA strategies and the development
of applicant countries to the EU.
19. Many drug trafficking investigations
involve working closely with law enforcement authorities overseas.
Customs and Excise have built up excellent working relations with
many overseas authorities and are one of the main users of Europol.
Our liaison with overseas agencies works very well and allows
us to maximise the impact of our drugs investigations on international
drug trafficking organisations.
20. The financial aspects of crime have
been given an increasingly high priority by HMCE. The seizure
of cash at the borders, investigations into money laundering and
seeking confiscation orders wherever possible, have made and will
continue to make, a vital contribution towards reducing the availability
of Class "A" drugs in the UK. We have made major inroads
in disrupting drugs money laundering organisations and have substantially
increased the number disrupted this year.
21. The Proceeds of Crime Bill will have
a positive impact on our powers to attack the profit motive of
drug trafficking and make a positive contribution to reducing
drug smuggling. The proposed powers will enable us to deprive
criminals of more of their profits, increase the amount of drug-related
cash forfeited as a result of seizures at borders and make greater
use of financial investigation to trace assets and prosecute those
involved in money laundering. New powers to seize cash found anywhere
in the UK (no just at borders as at present) will enable us to
seize significant additional sums of drugs money, which will severely
disrupt organisations involved in drug trafficking and associated
22. The ability to seek orders to require
banking institutions to identify accounts of people under investigation
and monitor suspect accounts will further enhance our capability.