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The EU’s own crime agency Europol said the drugs market was “booming” and the purity of the Class A drug was at its highest ever level. Drug seizures have also risen since 2016 in a majority of member states, they said in a new report.
Traditionally, the US was the target market for these ruthless drug-dealing gangs, largely operating out of South America.
But thanks to higher prices, less chance of getting caught and more market growth, the EU is now the traffickers’ number one destination, the report said.
Ports like Antwerp and Rotterdam, which deals with thousands of containers every week, are particularly attractive to smugglers, according to Jeremy McDermott, executive director of InSight Crime.
This is because they are “some of the most efficient ports in the world, handling enormous volumes of containers, which allows traffickers to play the numbers game,” he explained.
And when it gets there, the cocaine is worth up to nearly three times its market value in the US.
Europol said a kilogram of cocaine in the US is worth up to £20,000 ($28,000) wholesale, as opposed to up to £57,000 ($80,000) in Europe.
The report warned, with 40 percent of criminal networks active in the EU involved in the illegal drugs trade, it was the bloc’s “largest criminal business”.
Europol also said “unprecedented quantities” of cocaine were being trafficked primarily from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia generating “multi-billion-euros in profits.”
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As well as making the criminals rich, it also corrupts society and contributes to violent crime.
The report added: “Unprecedented quantities of cocaine are trafficked to the EU from Latin America, generating multi-billion-euro profits for the diverse range of criminals involved in the cocaine trade in both Europe and South America.
“The booming cocaine market has entailed an increase in the number of killings, shootings, bombings, arsons, kidnappings, torture and intimidation related to the trade in cocaine.
“The nature of the violence appears to have changed: a growing number of criminal networks use violence in a more offensive way.”
“We don’t have robberies any more,” said Joris van der Aa, the Belgium Gazet van Antwerpen newspaper’s respected crime reporter and columnist.
“Everyone is working in the drug business.”
Despite the issue the drugs are creating, police estimate they seize as little as 10 percent of the among of imported drugs.
As well as wreaking havoc on the EU’s streets, competition for its lucrative market is fuelling a vicious drug war in South America.
Thousands of people have been killed over recent years as cartels fight it out to dominate the multi-billion pound industry.
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