World’s Cocaine Traffickers Sniff at Movement Restrictions

The world’s cocaine industry has kept business booming even as many of the world’s legal sectors have ground to a halt.

The industry has benefited from huge stores of drugs warehoused before the pandemic and its wide variety of smuggling methods. Street prices around Europe have risen by up to 30 percent, but it is not clear how much of this is due to distribution problems, and how much to drug gangs taking advantage of homebound customers.

What is clear is that cocaine continues to flow from South America to Europe and North America. Closed trafficking routes have been replaced with new ones, and street deals have been substituted with door-to-door deliveries.

In Colombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine, lockdowns and government eradication efforts have curbed some production, while travel restrictions have shut down some significant export routes, such as speedboats. In destination markets in Europe and the United States, authorities are still seizing large hauls with remarkable frequency — a sign that drug smugglers are still doing a brisk trade.

For over a month, OCCRP reporters in Europe and Latin America tracked announcements of seizures and spoke to law enforcement officials, analysts and sources within the cocaine trade.

They found an industry that has proved nimble at finding ways around the unprecedented global lockdown and quarantine measures. The cocaine trade is thriving in a world where even mainstays like oil are facing major disruptions.

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