Russian customs officials confiscate almost $100 million in methadone only to discover it was UN aid sent to Tajikistan
On December 17, customs officials at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport announced that they had confiscated a large quantity of methadone. Methadone is endorsed by the United Nations as a therapeutic substance to combat heroin addiction, but its use is banned in Russia.
A subsequent official notification indicated that more than 2,000 bottles of methadone had been found in a package bound from Germany to Tajikistan. The Federal Customs Service (FTS) emphasized that the bottles were labeled incorrectly: The quantities of methadone listed were 100 times smaller than those actually present.
The FTS estimated the black-market value of the delivery at 5.8 billion rubles ($95.9 million), and Russian law enforcement officials opened a criminal drug smuggling case soon afterward.
The Health Ministry of Tajikistan subsequently announced that the methadone delivery had in fact been intended for treating Tajik residents suffering from addiction. It had been purchased with funding from the UN’s Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as part of an AIDS prevention program.