Sat, Nov 11, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Cooperation is the key to stopping the drug trade

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

The Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau (MJIB), Keelung District Prosecutors’ Office and Keelung Customs on Friday last week cracked the biggest nimetazepam case in history.

The suspect, who allegedly attempted to smuggle more than 3 million tablets to Malaysia, was arrested while trying to escape to the Philippines.

The news shocked the entire nation, especially because Taiwan is getting a reputation as being a major exporter of illegal drugs.

However, simply cracking down on drugs might not be enough to clear the nation’s reputation. The government must be more proactive. Here are some things it could do to reinstate the nation’s good name:

First, the government should encourage the sharing of information between agencies. Finding drug factories requires interdepartmental collaboration. This means there needs to be a mechanism that facilitates cooperation between police, prosecutors and MJIB officers.

The current system rewards investigators who have successfully solved drug-related cases, leaving some disinclined to share their experience, leads and key information with each other. Likewise, different agencies might be reluctant to share their databases with one another. This has made it difficult to crack down on drug rings.

One way to break this pattern is through the Executive Yuan’s routine safety or anti-drug briefings, which provide great opportunities for sharing information.

Second, the government should improve its anti-drug policies. In recent years, investigators have found drugs of unprecedented value and volume, suggesting that the government’s anti-drug policies are failing.

There are several reasons they are not working.

First, while it is easy to evaluate the results of drug crackdowns, it is much more difficult to do that with other aspects of anti-drug work. This has led to other anti-drug efforts that are equally important being overlooked, as drug crackdowns typically receive the most attention.

Second, anti-drug work includes crackdowns, drug prevention, rehabilitation and education. The last three aspects are just as difficult as the first, if not more so. Not only do they require more resources than drug crackdowns, but they also require different agencies to cooperate, as they touch every ministry.

However, except for the police, prosecutors and the MJIB, no other agency seems to consider anti-drug work in any way within its purview.

Third, knowledge gained in crackdowns has not been used to improve the anti-drug policies. As mentioned, drug finds suggest failure in drug prevention, rehabilitation and education. The apparent lack of communication between investigators of drug-related crimes and policymakers could be because they work for different agencies, which have different kinds of expertise and are not motivated to collaborate.

Finally, the government should establish a mechanism to facilitate cross-strait and domestic cooperation to fight drugs.

In the nimetazepam case, the suspect appeared to be transporting the drugs from the Philippines to Malaysia. That means plans to fight drugs must not focus solely on Taiwan, but also include measures to collaborate with China and other countries.

The New Southbound Policy includes visa-waivers for many Southeast Asian and Oceanian nationals, which could make it easier for international drug rings to produce, transport and sell drugs. It is therefore necessary to step up cooperation with those countries to fight drug crime.

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