News briefing – week beginning 2 February

  • The jury at a Manhattan federal court took just three and a half hours to find Ross Ulbricht guilty of operating the online drug marketplace ‘Silk Road’ from February 2011 to October 2013. Ulbricht had previously pleaded not guilty to seven charges of narcotics trafficking, criminal enterprise, computer hacking and money laundering.
  •  After an eight-month operation, police have arrested 21 people of an alleged drug gang suspected of “flooding” Manchester with cocaine.
  • The Obama administration has requested that US Congress double the funding it allocates to the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) – currently totalling USD 642 million – used to train Central American countries in tackling drug trafficking and organised crime. This included proposals to double the funding given to Peru to USD 58 million, but cut the funding given to ‘Plan Colombia’ from USD 149 million to USD 117 million.
  • Albanian authorities have dismantled a “massive” drug network which they claim started in Colombia, ended in Albania, and has been responsible for channelling drugs through Europe. The operation was conducted with cooperation from INTERPOL, EUROPOL and German authorities. More than 100 kilograms of cocaine are reported to have been seized.
  • The Peruvian government has announced it will establish a no-fly zone over “its most lawless coca-producing region.” A government official has also said the country is planning to resume aerial interception of aircraft suspected of transporting cocaine. The practise was halted in 2001 when a US missionary and her daughter were mistakenly shot down.
  • Patrick Balbierz, writing for the World Policy Institute, has described Peru as “the new King of Cocaine.”
  • Two Colombian soldiers have been arrested for allegedly selling over 400 firearms to the Urabeños, Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking organisation.
  • Benny Palmeri-Bacchi, a former Venezuelan judge, faces sentencing in Miami after pleading guilty to money laundering, extortion and conspiring to obstruct justice. He has been accused by US prosecutors of taking bribes from a South American drug cartel boss.
  • The Prevention Hub has released a report studying the role of youth in the Caribbean drug trade, which argues that young people have “little to no involvement” in cocaine trafficking and are mostly only involved in the selling of cannabis.