Europe has been "flooded" with cocaine despite the coronavirus pandemic, Bob Van den Berghe, a senior law enforcement officer at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told Reuters. In the past three months, UNODC has confiscated 17.5 tonnes of cocaine, a 20 percent rise compared to the same period in 2019, Van den Berghe said.
This month, Belgian authorities seized five tonnes of cocaine in the port of Antwerp, which last year became the main entry point for the drug.
Despite the fact that authorities in Europe, including major distribution points such as Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium have restricted the movement of people, the rise in cocaine deliveries continues.
While other channels of drug trafficking have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Michael O'Sullivan, head of the EU-funded Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre, it has had no effect on maritime deliveries. Drug dealers are taking advantage of the fact that imports of food from South America to Europe have been only marginally hit and have been hiding drugs in containers with food. The five tonnes that Belgian authorities confiscated were hidden in a container with squid.
According to the 2019 EU Drug Markets Report, the cocaine market is the second largest illicit drug market in Europe, with an estimated retail value in 2017 of almost $10 billion.