Liquid cocaine seizure in Bangladesh highlights the importance of new drug routes

Police and customs authorities in Bangladesh declared that a Bangladeshi-born British citizen conspired to smuggle 600 kg of liquid cocaine from Uruguay in a shipment of 107 blue plastic barrels marked as Bolivian sunflower oil. The barrels were allegedly to be shipped through Bangladesh to a third yet-to be-named country. Customs authorities seized the consignment on 8 June and later found the presence of cocaine during tests performed by the Bangladesh’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) and Drug Testing Laboratory in Dhaka. They estimated that around one third of the barrels contained cocaine, which would give the shipment a street value of around $39 million.

Bangladeshi authorities declared that Bangladesh had never imported sunflower oil from Bolivia. No letter of credit (LC) was opened for importing the consignment from Bolivia: this would entail  that the cocaine consignment would have been re-exported supposedly to North America or Western Europe via Singapore or Malaysia.

Customs officials assured that the consignment of the cocaine was not meant for Bangladesh, as they lack the technology for converting liquid cocaine to solid powder. Moreover, it is widely known that Bangladesh is not a market for this drug: the demand of phensidyl, yaba, hemp and other cheap drugs is much higher than cocaine, considered an ‘exclusive’ product. Accordingly, it is unlikely that the consignment was sent for the Bangladeshi market.

Bangladeshi police officials claimed that drug traffickers commonly ship drugs in liquid form from South America through Asian ports in India, Thailand and Myanmar to reach their final destinations in Western Europe and North America, in an effort to mask the true origin of the shipments.