British narcotics gangs are collaborating closely with their former international rivals in an attempt to import larger shipments of cocaine, according to a National Crime Agency (NCA) official.
According to Lawrence Gibbons, Head of Drug Threat at the NCA, recent evidence and trends show that criminal leaders in Britain have established direct connections with organised crime groups and cartels in Italy through the prominent Calabrian crime syndicate the ’Ndrangheta mafia.
There have been large UK-bound cocaine consignments found in the same shipping containers belonging to the 'Ndrangheta. It is thought these groups now divide the cocaine between them in what would have been agreed in prearrangement, according to Gibbons.
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UK-based narcotics gangs and Italian syndicates such as the 'Ndrangheta were once thought to be fierce rivals, but now appear to be sharing logistics and resources to optimise their export and sales.
This Italian crime group is considered to be one of the most powerful and dangerous criminal groups in the world. In 2013, Europol estimated the ’Ndrangheta’s turnover was £44bn.
Stricter rules in the US and other parts of North and Central America are making it harder to push drugs around, so cocaine-producing countries such as Columbia are seeing Western Europe as a transit hub as an import destination.
In the UK, around 1,716 gangs are estimated to be a part of the cocaine trade, according to the National Crime Agency. Many of these gangs buy cocaine sourced from South America and work in collaboration with the supply chain forged by the ’Ndrangheta.
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The report comes shortly after the NCA stopped a yacht arriving into Devon’s port with a two tonne shipment of cocaine. All six crew members of the yacht were arrested.
Cocaine is a prevalent drug in the UK, used widely by members across classes and not just by those in the middle classes, as highlighted by Gibbons and in evidence shown in the Dame Black Review published in 2021.
Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter