Center of Excellence for Reducing the Supply of Illicit Drugs

UNODC report brings data on cocaine trafficking between Latin America and Europe

With well-defined production sites in South America and large consumer markets in both America and Europe, the cocaine market and global trafficking routes pose a transnational threat. Recent estimates suggest that in Western and Central Europe alone, about 4,4 million people have used cocaine in the last year, making it the second most popular drug in the region, after marijuana.

In this context, the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Section and Europol launched the new series: “Cocaine Insights”. The first report, focusing on the cocaine trade from Latin America to Europe, highlights a significant increase in the supply of the narcotic, a diversification of trafficking groups and changes in entry points into Europe. The second report, in turn, has as its theme the different forms of production and consumption of cocaine in the world, including information on crack consumed in South America.

Developed by UNODC under the CRIMJUST program and in cooperation with regional, national and international partners and stakeholders, the series brings the latest findings on trends and other issues related to the cocaine markets, in an accessible and informative format. This series of publications will cover topics and developments related to cocaine trafficking, its impact and future prospects.

Brazil in the cocaine trafficking chain

One of the main findings of the study is the shift of the epicentre of the cocaine market in Europe to the north of the continent. The increased use of containerized shipments at the ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg consolidated the Netherlands' role as a staging point and caused the North Sea coast of continental Europe to overtake the Iberian Peninsula as the main entry point for cocaine.

Seizure data still point to a relative increase in the amount of narcotics entering through Belgium, mainly through the port of Antwerp. Until recent years, Colombia was the main source of cocaine arriving in Belgian territory, but in 2019 Brazil assumed this position.

The study also analyzes the role of European criminal networks and their collaboration with Colombian cartels and other producers in Latin America, highlighting an already established presence in Brazilian territory. The report brings the example of the Italian mafia organization 'Ndrangheta', which in recent years has established a presence in Brazil to ensure the flow of illicit activities to consumer markets.

Also noteworthy is the presence of Albanian criminal groups in Latin American territory. Reports indicate that since 2012, Albanian-speaking groups have become influential in strategic ports both in South America, including Brazil, and in Europe.

Albanians, in fact, are the only ones ahead of Brazilians in analyzing the nationality of foreigners imprisoned in Europe in the context of cocaine seizures. From 2018 to 2020, 257 Brazilians were arrested, compared to 266 Albanians.

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