REPORTS show that the European cocaine market is expanding due to a flood of imports from South America.
Spain, Belgium and Holland are the worst offenders, with total seizures weighing in at over 214 tonnes in 2020, up 6% from 2019.
High levels of cocaine production in South America have resulted in record quantities now being seized in Europe, as it gets distributed across the continent and further afield to the Middle East and Asia.
But the suffering of those seeking solace in the drug is only part of the criminal misery spreading across the continent.
Cocaine is now the second most commonly consumed illicit drug in the EU after cannabis, with a market retail value in 2020 estimated at €10.5 billion.
Europol reports that for the fourth consecutive year, record amounts of cocaine (some 214.6 tonnes) were seized in Europe in 2020.
Almost three quarters of that amount was found between Belgium (70 tonnes), the Netherlands (49 tonnes) and Spain (37 tonnes).
Although ‘home-grown’ production in those three countries is increasing, most cocaine manufacturing still takes place in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.
Along with the increased supply of cocaine into the European market, an emerging logistics business now supports the trafficking.
While established criminal networks often manage their own activities, others now outsource a range of services along their supply chain.
This involves the theft of high-performance cars, trucks and speedboats.
Analysis of encrypted criminal communications have shown that transport is often reliant on a web of facilitators and brokers who connect producers, transporters and distributors.
Another consequence of increased drug trade is the rise in violence and corruption, with Spain and France seeing sharp rises along with Belgium and Holland.
Even the environment is suffering as a consequence of a larger drugs trade, as chemicals used in drug production and “cutting” seeps into waterways.
Increased supply typically means lower prices, which opens accessibility to the young and vulnerable.
Doubtless increased suffering directly from cocaine use, added to an increase in violent crime, corruption, theft of property and environmental damage means the repercussions of the drugs industry now reach far further than one might think.
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