BELGIUM: Record amounts of cocaine are being seized in Europe while manufacturing of the drug is now taking place inside the the European Union, officials in charge of fighting and monitoring drugs use in the bloc warned.
More than 214 tons of cocaine were seized in Europe in 2020, a 6% increase from the previous year, and experts from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) believe that amount could reach 300 tons in 2022. With a market retail value estimated at 10.5 billion euros in 2020 and about 3.5 million European citizens reporting having used it in the past year, cocaine is the second most used drug in the EU after cannabis.
Its availability in Europe has never been higher, with extremely high purity and low prices.
While most cocaine manufacturing still occurs in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, EU experts are worried by the processing now taking place inside the 27-nation bloc, particularly in Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands.
Between 2018 and 2020, 45 illicit production laboratories were discovered in the EU.
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, EMCDDA scientific analyst Laurent Laniel said that cocaine powder is often smuggled from South America to Europe in carrier materials such as charcoal and plastics, then extracted in local laboratories. EU experts also looked at the growing methamphetamine market, which has been spreading in recent years after being initially concentrated in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 2020, a total of 215 methamphetamine laboratories were dismantled in the region, according to reports from nine EU countries.
According to Europol, the EU agency for law enforcement, European manufacturers of synthetic drugs are working in cahoots with Mexican cartels to increase production. – JAPAN TODAY