European police and drug agencies are concerned at an “unprecedented increase” in the size of heroin seizures — with a number of countries recording record hauls.
The organisations also report there are signs that cocaine availability may be on the rise again, with a worrying growth in maritime shipments, carrying larger consignments.
The EU police agency, Europol, and the EU drugs agency, the Emcdda, report that traffickers are using ever ingenious ways to smuggle cocaine, incorporating it into beeswax, fuel, and breast implants.
They report that criminal gangs are making massive profit from importing chemicals used in new psychoactive substances — also known as headshops drugs or legal highs — with a kilogramme of an NPS costing just €100 to buy and ship in from China to Europe.
The agencies express concern at an increase in the purity and potency of many illegal drugs, particularly cannabis, ecstasy, heroin and NPS.
The 190-page study, EU Drug Markets Report, estimates that more than €24bn is spent on illegal drugs every year. This includes:
The report flags a number of major concerns with the heroin trade.
“Exceptionally, large heroin seizures are now frequent in the EU and seizures in Turkey are increasing. There are also signs of an increase in the purity of heroin on the streets of Europe.”
It said there has been an “unprecedented rise” in the size of individual shipments sent along the heroin routes to Europe, with consignments of 100kg or more and, on occasion, amounts measured in tonnes.
It said there had been “record-breaking” seizures in many EU countries, including the Netherlands (1.2 tonnes) and Belgium (864kg).
These two countries are the main trafficking hubs of heroin into Ireland. Seizures here have not, so far, reflected the trends reported in this report.
The report suggests that coca bush cultivation in South America is increasing and that the use of maritime containers to transport large consignments was of “increasing concern”.
It said that cocaine was being incorported into a wide range of materials “including beeswax, fertilisers, coffee, cocoa, plastic, clothing, liquids, foods, fuels and paper”.
The report said once the cocaine landed it was recovered using an extraction process.
It said that lack of intelligence about this means of smuggling gave “rise to concerns such methods are being used successfully to smuggle large amounts of cocaine into the EU undetected”.
The report expressed concern at the rise in purity and potency of MDMA in recent years — more than half of reporting countries came across tablets with 200mg of MDMA — compared to an average of 66mg in 2009.
It said the average potency of both herbal cannabis and resin had “almost doubled in the last decade”.
It said 560 NPS were being monitored at the moment and that 650 web shops selling them had been identified.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved