Stories from the Past - Series IV

Lost in the Past – Early 1900’s: At the League of Nations

 LEAGUE OF NATIONS, Geneva, June 27th, 1925, Note by the Secretary-General, C.381.M.125.1925, “NOTE ON THE OPERATIONS OF A SYNDICATE FOR IMORTING OPIUM AND NARCOTICS, AS DISCLOSED BY THE SEIZURE OF DOCUMENTS AT 51 CANTON ROAD, SHANGHAI, IN JANUARY 1925”: “This case arose from a complaint lodged before the Mixed Court … that [two individuals named] did dispose of certain stolen opium contrary to the provisions of the Chinese Criminal Code which deal with the receiving and disposal of stolen opium, and at the same time a petition in Civil action was brought before the Court against the same persons and [two companies named] for the issue of a summons for immediate security in the sum of M.$ 1,000,000 alleging that 180 cases of opium which had been shipped from Constantinople for Vladivostock on a bill of lading jointly owned by the plaintiffs had been feloniously removed from the ship by the defendants and sold by them at Shanghai.”

In that note by the Secretary-General of the League of Nations , based on communications from concerned Governments and circulated to the members of the League, the Parties to the Opium Convention, and the Members of the Advisory Committee, we find essential elements of information exchange that is required today:

The note speaks of the involvement of syndicates and their making, methods and means of drug smuggling, including use of free ports and postal services, routing through different cities, involving different nationals, and exploiting loopholes of national laws and international drug control treaties. It also speaks of specific details of how diversion of drugs from licit channels into illicit traffic took place, using import certificates apparently bought, involving pharmaceutical companies selling drugs knowingly that the drugs would be diverted into illicit traffic (it names pharmaceutical companies well known to date), and it speaks of such meticulous details of findings from examinations of telegrams and other communications exchanged between those involved in drug trafficking, and shared with Governments through the League of Nations.

The Secretary-General’s note refers to the making of the syndicate in question:

The papers seized in Shanghai do not disclose in what way the Syndicate came to be formed; it is evident, however, that the actual organisation was in the hands of a member of Gand Company of Shanghai – probably [a Chinese name], who was ultimately convicted. The syndicate was financed by a Japanese in Kobe named M [or H]… K…, to whom was handed, on October 20 th, 1924 ‘the whole account of your concerned’. Beyond this, nothing is known of M… K…, but it can be confidently assumed that he was not merely a sleeping partner in the concern. Members of the Syndicate frequently made visits to Kobe .” The note continues to describe the movements of individuals concerned, also tracking financial transactions. In such a process, it even identifies, for instance, a company operating under two different names as actually being one company.


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