News Briefing – Week of 18 May

The lock-down measures adopted in Morocco have disrupted the usual routes used to traffic cannabis towards Europe. Indeed, traffickers were previously relying on the commercial shipping vessels or high-speed boats crossing the Mediterranean. So as to avoid detection, they are favouring longer and more expansive routes however such methodology requires drug hand-overs at high sea. 

Burmese authorities seized nearly 200 million methamphetamine tablets, more than 500 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, 3,750 litres of liquid methylfentanyl, 35.5 metric tons and 163,000 thousand litres of precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs. This result followed a three-month long investigation that centred on a village located in Myanmar’s northeast Shan state.

Gangs in Cape town, South Africa, have started delivering food in poor neighbourhoods. Whilst rival gang members work together to deliver the food the public do not see the kind acts and inter-gang truces as recompense for the historic violence and criminality, attributable to the gangs, that has and continues to affect the communities.

The COVID pandemic and the lockdown measures adopted to contain the spread may be fostering deforestation, illegal mining and wildlife trafficking. Investigation highlights two possible explanations: the first, that criminal activities are thriving of the lack of the monitoring and police presence and the second, that the socio-economic costs of the pandemic are forcing people to utilise their rural local environment to provide food and income. 

1,4 tonnes of cocaine was seized at the port of Le Havre in France. The customs officers profiled a container originating from Honduras which was supposed to be shipping coffee. Three suspects were arrested.

11,5 tonnes of cannabis were seized by Belgian authorities in Brussels’ main wholesale food market. This seizure is the result of several months of investigation into a Belgium drug trafficking ring.

Despite the lockdown measures adopted by many countries in Latin America and Europe, cocaine trafficking has adapted swiftly and continued. Traffickers are using different routes and some distribution mechanisms have targeted food delivery services. The impact of the lockdown measures on drug production are mixed. In Peru, coca growing and paste production have been brought to a standstill. On the other hand, the limited control of coca bush cultivation by the Police in Bolivia may have resulted in an increase of coca production. In Colombia, authorities seized upon lockdown opportunities by maintaining the eradication of the coca crop. Traffickers have been able to continue supplying cocaine however, thanks to the high volumes that had already been produced and stored and by taking advantage of the fact that some key food industries were exempt from lockdown measures, thus enabling traffickers to mix cocaine consignments with legitimate loads. Supply methodology has also been adapted during lockdown with trade on the dark rising and food delivery services being manipulated to deliver drugs to consumers.

The European Union has released its Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Among its objectives, the strategy foresees the proposal and adoption of measures to “crack down” on the  illegal wildlife trade. The strategy is considered ambitions and is welcomed across many non-governmental organisations and praised by those engaged in the field of biodiversity for the adoption of legally binding European level measures.