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Cocaine traffic booming during pandemic: Europol

The illegal narcotics trade has boomed during the coronavirus pandemic, a Europol specialist said on Tuesday.

Cocaine traffic from South America to Europe has reached “record amounts,” Sascha Strupp, strategic analyst for drug trafficking at the EU law enforcement agency, told dpa.

“Corona did not have any influence on smuggling via sea routes,” Strupp said, calling the narcotics trade a “growing market.”

Though it was difficult to estimate exactly how many drugs were smuggled, investigators saw an increase in the number of confiscated drugs.

In the first half of 2020, more than 25,000 kilograms (55,116 pounds) of cocaine were seized in the port of Rotterdam, more than double of what was found in the same period of 2019 – a year in which the 34,000 kilograms of confiscated cocaine had already been a record.

Dutch police last month found the largest cocaine laboratory ever discovered in the Netherlands, which was processing around 200 kilograms of cocaine per day in the town of Nijeveen near the German border.

According to Europol, most cocaine reaches Europe via the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.

Europol estimates that criminal gangs have recently switched to smuggling drugs mainly via sea routes, hiding them among other merchandise such as medical equipment, as air traffic has almost completely collapsed due to the pandemic.

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