Large Cocaine Seizure in France Reflects Increasing Appetite for Drugs

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The seizure of a metric ton of Colombian cocaine and a dismantled international trafficking ring in southwest France illustrate the increasing appetite for drugs in that country.

The drugs were seized in a warehouse in the small city of Bayonne on November 30, reported 20 Minutes. Authorities said they were smuggled in a private jet.

The police operation was part of an investigation initiated in March 2016, after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) shared information concerning a scheme to import significant amounts of cocaine to areas along the French-Spanish border.

The operation led by the Central Office for the Repression of Illicit Narcotics Trafficking (Office central pour la répression du trafic illicite des stupéfiants — OCRTIS) also netted 600,000 euros and resulted in the arrest of ten others. Among them were four Colombian nationals, two Spanish citizens, two Dutch nationals, a Guatemalan and a French suspect, according to France Soir.

The prosecutor in charge of the case, Marie-Madeleine Alliot, said the magnitude of the seizure was “exceptional,” and that the shipment had “a market value of 100 million euros” due to its high purity. Police Comptroller General Phillipe Véroni added that the bust represented “10 percent of annual cocaine seizures in France.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The seizure helps illuminate a trend of rising drug consumption in France, which, along with upticks in illicit drug prices, mean more opportunity.

According to the French Observatory on Drugs and Drug Addiction (Observatoire Français des Drogues et de la Toxicomanie — OFDT), there were 450,000 cocaine consumers in France in 2014 — the data does not indicate the frequency of consumption — and 2.2 million individuals who had experimented the drug.

More worryingly, the number of consumers increased to 1.1 percent of the French population aged between 18 and 24; another 5.6 percent of the adults told surveyors they had experimented with the drug. Overall, seizures of cocaine increased from 1,333 kilograms in 2000, to 10,883 in 2015; and the median price of a gram of cocaine increased from between 60 and 65 to 65 and 75 euros during the same time period.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of European Organized Crime

The trends are not limited to cocaine but extend to other drugs. Heroine seizures were 444 kilograms in 2000, and reached 818 kilograms in 2015, after peaking at 1,118 kilograms in 2008.

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