Pizza boxes and fridges full of squid: coronavirus is forcing drug smugglers to get creative

Lockdowns and trade sanctions are seeing drug smugglers turn to new methods, with volumes of air and sea shipments up nearly 200%.

Cocaine traffickers have also been sneaking drugs into pizza boxes and refrigerators full of squid. Points for creativity.

Drug smugglers using squid refrigerators

With trade sanctions impeding distribution, drug traffickers are taking bigger risks and becoming more innovative than ever.

With European imports of fruit, vegetables, and packaged goods only somewhat affected by the pandemic, it’s no surprise that drug smugglers are attempting to infiltrate the food industry.

This month, cargo containing five tons of cocaine was seized from Antwerp, Belgium. Concealed in a refrigerator containing squid, the drugs were transferred into identical container before authorities discovered the (likely foul-smelling) narcotics.

The International Criminal Police Organization also reports food delivery drivers acting as channels for drug trade. Irish police recently detected 17 pounds of cocaine and a few handguns in pizza boxes, with similar reports from Spain, the U.K., and Malaysia.

Compared to last year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports a 20% increase in illegal shipments to European destinations.

From January to March in 2020, 17.5 tons of cocaine bound for Europe was confiscated, most of it originating from Brazil. Amounts taken are usually just the tip of the iceberg and represent only a small counterpart of the total cargo.

Senior law enforcement officer at UNODC Bob Van Den Berghe suggests that with fewer container ships and aeroplanes in rotation, traffickers are taking risks with massive loads of cocaine.

“Based on seizures of bigger-than-usual shipments of cocaine, it would be fair to say that Europe was flooded with cocaine ahead of lockdowns,” Van Den Berghe told Reuters.

Squidward Tentacles was contacted for a statement but refused to comment.

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