Last week, 700 kilograms of cocaine was discovered in Esparreguera, Spain concealed in freight shipments from Guatemala. In Dublin, 5.4 kilograms of cocaine, worth over £300,000 was found hidden in a sweet consignment at the city’s airport. In Brazil, dozens were arrested and £3.4million in assets were seized when police broke up an attempt to smuggle cocaine from Venezuela to Honduras. In the Caribbean, 250 kilograms of cocaine bound for the UK was seized.
These events, along with thirteen other incidents, were recorded in the EU’s Cocaine Route Programme (CRP) first weekly bulletin for November.
Since 2009, the CRP has tracked cocaine’s routes across 40 countries. The CRP has spread a £40million grant across eight different projects in an attempt to monitor cocaine smuggling routes and bring together the fragmented law enforcement approaches to the cocaine trade.
Projects range from anti-money laundering efforts in West Africa to preventing the chemicals necessary for cocaine production from entering South America and the Caribbean.
Cocaine is the second most commonly consumed illegal drug in the UK after cannabis, according to Home Office research. The study showed that during 2011–2012, 1.9 per cent of adults in the UK used cocaine. This was a decline from three per cent in 2008––2009, but still higher than 1996 when the figure was 0.6 per cent.
Cocaine might be the CRP’s main focus, but the programme’s various projects have turned up other smuggling activity as well. A search conducted using techniques from the CRP uncovered an illicit shipment of sea cucumbers in Cape Verde in 2012. A black market trade has sprung up around the protected sea creature.
‘While cocaine trafficking remains a threat in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa, other forms of illicit activity, often linked to organised crime are also gaining traction. Environmental crime is one area of growing concern. A number of reports have outlined the revenue derived from poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing,’ notes a CRP editorial in the most recent bulletin.
Next year, the EU will review serious and organised crime priorities for the organisation’s 2013–2017 cycle, and the techniques applied to tracking cocaine routes might just find a new home in dealing with environmental crime.