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Transatlantic Cocaine Market: Research Paper

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2011
66 pages
As the size of the U.S. cocaine market has become smaller, new destination markets have emerged, impacting a new set of nations; this report addresses the largest of these new cocaine flows, i.e., the trafficking of cocaine to meet increasing European demand.
Data show that European cocaine seizures increased rapidly between 1998 and 2006, peaking at approximately 121 tons; this figure declined sharply to 53 tons in 2009 and has been relatively stable since then. The price of pure cocaine has not increased significantly in Europe, suggesting that traffickers have found new ways of evading law enforcement authorities. In the last decade, approximately 60 percent of the cocaine seized was interdicted at sea or in ports, with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela being the most prominent country of origin for direct cocaine shipments to Europe, with the cocaine coming mainly from Colombia. Most of Europe's cocaine enters by sea, primarily via Spain. Excluding what is imported for local consumption, estimates were that approximately 21 tons of cocaine were trafficked from West Africa to Europe in 2009. This is down sharply from the previous 2 years. Most of the recently reported seizures of cocaine from container consignments from South America to West Africa had Nigeria or Ghana as their destination. Although Colombian organized crime groups still dominate trafficking of cocaine to Europe, domestic markets are often in the hands of traffickers of other nationalities. This report advises that countermeasures against cocaine trafficking to Europe must be on a scale that matches international trafficking patterns, which require coordination and integration of an international strategy that adapts to new developments as quickly and efficiently as the traffickers. 10 tables, 46 figures, and 63 notes