South American Drug Trafficking Organizations Increasingly Looking to Europe

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In what amounts to a significant shift in distribution networks, South American gangs are increasingly buying used jets, loading them with cocaine and flying them across the Atlantic to Africa, according to a recent NPR report.

The shift corresponds with the rising demand for drugs in Europe, paired with a recent crackdown on drug shipments by boat. “We started stopping the maritime traffic,” said Theodore Leggett, a researcher for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, “so then they started going to air traffic more and more.” 

According to US federal indictments, at least three South American drug trafficking organizations have begun to funnel drugs through West Africa to reach the European market.  In addition to contributing to crime in Europe, law enforcement officials fear the trend may have a corrupting effect on African governments, many of which lack the resources necessary to launch extensive counter-narcotics campaigns.

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