Gangsters abandon drugs to spice up their lives
Published 23/03/2010 | 05:00
Organised crime gangs have abandoned drug trafficking and have started smuggling saffron.
A severe shortage of the spice means the illegal trade has become more lucrative than dealing in gold.
Customs officials have warned of an alarming rise in the number of illegal consignments of the spice.
In India, officers claim they are uncovering up to three cases of saffron every day as criminals try to import the aromatic flower illegally from Iran. Saffron costs about €1,200 per kilo in Iran, but fetches double that in India. Prices have soared as domestic yields have dwindled.
The spice is imported legally from Iran, but criminals have turned to smuggling to avoid high import duties. It is thought gangs employ saffron "mules" to carry the spice in luggage on international flights. Prices have doubled in the past three years alone.
Shakeel Ahmad Mir, a spokesman for the Kashmir Saffron Growers' Association, said: "Severe drought conditions have affected the saffron yield to a large extent. With poor or no irrigational facilities and the pest attack on the crop, the saffron production has gone down by about 85pc in the past 10 years. (© Daily Telegraph, London)