Wednesday, 11 March 2009
British gangs operating in Spain control the UK cocaine market
British traffickers traditionally operate in Spain and the Netherlands, where they will buy the cocaine alongside other drugs. Traffickers will vary their routes, use coded communications and conceal their drugs in ingenious ways to import into Britain. Often a middleman is used to drive drugs into the UK, where they are recovered by the buyer. cocaine on the UK market is controlled by British gangs operating in Spain. Increasingly, however, Colombian gangs are based in Britain, where they run the supply of drugs to dealers.West Africa is a growing hub, but the traditional trail into the UK, via the Caribbean, still brings cocaine eastwards on yachts or via air couriers.In Britain the trade is estimated to be worth between £4bn and £6.6bn a year. The Home Office estimates there are 300 large-scale drug importers, 3,000 wholesalers and 70,000 street dealers.Profits from the drugs trade are used in other criminal enterprises. Cocaine traffickers will often import guns as well, partly to provide their own protection and also to sell to other criminals lower down the pecking order. The consumption of crack cocaine - which is imported as cocaine powder and produced in the UK - was once confined to urban areas, but is now being seen across the country. The links between drug use and crime are clearly established. With crack addiction comes acquisitive crime - street attacks, robberies, burglaries - all carried out to fund a habit. At the most violent level shootings, kidnappings and knifings are carried out by dealers to protect their stash or move in on a rival's patch. At times members of the public are caught in the crossfire, sometimes with fatal results.