Synthetic Drugs: A New Chinese Threat? – OpEd


By Yelena Kovachich

Far Eastern customs officers and policemen sealed off a large synthetic drugs channel from China into Russia. The illegal substances were shipped inside international postal packages. The drug traffic channel was discovered after a Vladivostok resident was detained while trying to collect at the post office a package from Shanghai, which contained a statue of a raven with drugs hidden inside.

People's Republic of China
People’s Republic of China

“Sakhalin customs officers prevented a drugs shipment from China”, “FSB blocked a channel for the Chinese “synthetic” drugs, “Chinese drug courier arrested in St. Petersburg” – an Internet search for just one month yields dozens of articles about prevented shipments of Chinese illegal substances into Russia. As a rule, the criminal scheme is organized according to the same scenario: a buyer places an order via the Internet, then with the help of brokers, the substance is sent by mail from the region of its production directly to the consumer. Today the postal service is the most convenient way of organizing drug trafficking, says Mikhail Vinogradov, the head of the Center of Legal and Psychological Help in Extreme Situations.

“One can send a few grams of drugs in a postal envelope. It is worth a lot of money. The postal service will not notice such a small difference in the letter’s weight. There is another option. A person sends a package. The sender is unknown since he uses fake identification documents. On the other end a person can simply not collect the package if he notices that he is being watched. This scheme of transporting drugs via postal service has been used for a long time.”

Such drug trafficking method is very attractive for the dealers since it is hard to expose them. Nevertheless, the police and the customs control have their own methods of fighting postal transfer of illegal substances, says Mikhail Vinogradov.

“The main method of fighting drug trafficking is to determine where the package originates. Drug dealers do not use the same post office to send the drugs, but they still send them from one region where the production of synthetic drugs is organized. Thus, if there are constantly shipped packages to Russia, containing toys, Christmas decorations, figurines, or simply letters originated from the same area, it leads one to certain suspicions.”

However, only small shipments of drugs are sent via the postal service.Other schemes are used to ship large quantities. Recently, for example, the Russian FSB stopped the channel for air transportation of illegal substances from China. Flight attendants who go through the Green corridor at the customs check points, transported drugs disguised as mineral fertilizers or food supplements. When arriving in Moscow, the cargo was shipped to one of the Chinese restaurants where it was repackaged and shipped all over Russia. Interesting that it was mostly Chinese citizens who participated in the criminal distribution of the poison.

According to the Russian law enforcement agencies, China has lately become the supplier to the Far East of not only the cannabinoids (hashish), but also of synthetic drugs, such as methyl amphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy). Obviously, while there is a demand the sale and transportation of the synthetic drugs will exist, which means that the Chinese drug threat to the Russian society remains. Another thing is obvious. The efforts of the Russian police and customs officers to fight drug traffic would be a lot more productive if their efforts were combined with those of the Chinese side.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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