Gardaí in US and Colombia help to investigate drug cartels
New garda liaison officers in Colombia and North America have made a “huge difference” in the flow of information about cocaine trafficking, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.
He said he was “very concerned” at the scale of cocaine trafficking into Europe from South America and said garda-organised crime units worked closely with international agencies to combat the booming trade.
- Record amounts of cocaine were seized in the EU in 2020 — almost 215 tonnes — the fourth consecutive year of record seizures;
- Cocaine availability is probably at “an all-time high” and more affordable than in the past;
- Initial reports show 2020 seizures were surpassed in 2021, with more than 240 tonnes seized last year in the four main EU countries for cocaine importation;
- The EU cocaine retail market is estimated to be worth at least €10.5bn, considered to be an underestimate;
- While Covid-19 restrictions resulted in a large decrease in cocaine seizures at retail level and a dramatic decrease in airline cocaine couriers, the overall cultivation, production, and trafficking of cocaine did not drop and may even have risen;
- There is a “worrying” increase in the production of cocaine within Europe, with Latin American and European gangs in partnership;
- Mexican cartels — such as the Beltrán-Leyva and Sinaloa — are increasingly involved in supplying cocaine into Europe;
- Concerns at the possible emergence in Europe of new “inexpensive” smokable cocaine products — different to crack — which is common in South America.