DRUGS: Now the Dutch Connection

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Actor Gene Hackman and a crew of narcotics agents and drug pushers out of Central Casting are currently in Marseille filming The French Connection II, a sequel to the award-winning 1971 dope flick. But as any real narc could tell them, this time they have the wrong location. For the moment at least, the French connection has been largely broken, along with the heroin-processing laboratories on the Cote d'Azur and the Corsican drug rings that ran them. The new center for the European heroin trade is, of all places, the jewel-box city of Amsterdam.

The Dutch metropolis has long had a brisk local traffic in both hard and soft drugs, mainly to supply the needs of its resident Chinese and the floating, polyglot population of young Europeans and North Americans who have made the place a kind of enduring Woodstock since the mid-1960s. Over the past 18 months, though, Amsterdam has changed from merely a drug-using city to the chief narcotics distribution point in Europe. Says Nicholas Panella, Paris-based deputy director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's European operations: "Products from there are finding their way into cities all over the Continent." Fearing that the stuff may also be starting to make its way to North America, Panella's office has set up a branch in The Hague. In early August two Canadian students were arrested at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport as they were about to board a plane for Vancouver; in the false bottom of a suitcase they had hidden 6½ lbs. of heroin, worth $400,000.

"Brown Sugar." The Dutch connection is not as big or as broad as its famed French predecessor—at least not yet. Until a U.S.-sponsored multilateral crackdown on the international drug traffic began to take effect last year, laboratories in Southern France converted staggering quantities of Turkish opium into heroin for distribution in the U.S. and other countries. Police seizures of as much as 50 kilograms (110 lbs.) of heroin were common. New York detectives two weeks ago captured 165 lbs. of Turkish-derived heroin (street value: $113 million) that was stashed in a shipment of Louis XIII furniture being sent to the U.S.; the heroin had apparently been processed before the French connection was broken and had been stockpiled for later sale. So far, narcotics seizures in and around Amsterdam have been much smaller; officials reckon that the Dutch drug traffic is less than one-fourth the size of the Turkey-Marseille trade at its peak.

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