'Opium vampires' raiding poppy crops for heroin

7th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

7 June 2004, MADRID - Police have uncovered a drug scam involving professional thieves who target fields in southern Spain where farmers have been cultivating opium poppies under licence for the government, it was reported Monday.

7 June 2004

MADRID - Police have uncovered a drug scam involving professional thieves who target fields in southern Spain where farmers have been cultivating opium poppies under licence for the government, it was reported Monday.

The thieves, many of them Italians, make night-time raids to "bleed" plants in the opium fields, selling the sap to drug traffickers, reported Spain's La Vanguardia newspaper.

A police operation against the gangs operating in the area around Seville saw 14 Italians arrested and one man killed by a car as he tried to flee across a busy road.

The operation has revealed what has become a nightly battle between farmers, police and the hundreds of "opium vampires" who sell the sap for EUR 78 (GDP 52) a gram on the streets.

"They sneak in at night," one farmer, who now patrols his 32-hectare (80-acre) plantation every night armed with a long wooden cosh, told the newspaper.

Some 4,000 hectares in the southern region of Andalucía are given over to the poppy, and farmers are licensed by the Spanish health ministry.

An estimated seven tonnes of the plant are harvested there every year. The crop is used, among other things, for producing morphine and codeine.

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Subject: Spanish news


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