EU Drug Markets Report 2019

Drug trafficking is a highly profitable commercial activity and remains a core business for organised crime groups across Europe today. Understanding the reality of the European drug market requires a holistic approach, following the supply chain from production and trafficking to distribution and sales.

Taking such an approach, two EU agencies – the EMCDDA and Europol – have joined forces to provide their third state-of-the-art overview of the European illicit drug market in the form of the EU Drug Markets Report 2019.

The analysis presented in this report spans numerous topics such as the links between drugs and other crimes, the licit economy and society more generally as well as the processes and players involved in the trade, from production and trafficking to distribution. Taking an evidence-based approach, the report reviews the markets for heroin, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA and new psychoactive substances. It also provides action points to inform policy development at EU and national level. This publication is an essential reference for law enforcement professionals, policymakers, the academic community and indeed for anyone seeking up-to-date information and analysis on drug markets in Europe.

The latest data show that overall drug availability within Europe remains ‘very high’ and that consumers have access to a wide variety of high-purity and high-potency products at steady, or falling, prices. An important cross-cutting theme in the report is the environmental impact of drug production, including deforestation and the dumping of chemical waste, which can result in ecological damage, safety risks and high clean-up costs.

The report highlights the increasing importance of Europe, both as a target and drug-producing region, and shows how the violence and corruption, long seen in traditional drug-producing countries, are now increasingly evident within the EU. Among the wide-ranging consequences of the drug market presented in the analysis are its negative impacts on society (e.g. gang violence, drug-related homicide) and the strain on public institutions and governance. The drug market’s links to wider criminal activity (e.g. human trafficking, terrorism) are also explored, along with its negative repercussions on the legal economy (e.g. how money laundering associated with the drug trade undermines legitimate businesses).

To read full report, follow this link>>>

A short presentation of the main highlights from the EU Drug Markets Report 2019, targeting policy and practice is available in a separate document available here>>>

 

Record seizures hit synthetic drugs during Europol action

Between 16 and 20 September and on the 25 September, Europol coordinated the EMPACT large-scale Joint Action Days 2019. The actions targeted synthetic drugs and new psychoactive substances and human trafficking, migrant smuggling, document fraud and environmental crime and involved law enforcement authorities from EU Member States, third-party countries and EU bodies.

Joint efforts of 16 Member States, led by the Polish Central Bureau of Investigation have targeted drug traffickers across Europe. These activities brought in an important hit on drug trafficking networks pulling drugs worth more than €85 million out of the illegal market. As an example, 11.3 tonnes of MAPA pre-precursor were seized, disrupting the consequent production of amphetamines. Depending on production methods, this quantity of pre-precursors would have been enough to produce 6.3 tonnes of amphetamine worth nearly €63 million on the European market. This, added to the drugs worth €85 million seized, represents a serious hit against the European drug market.

Other major seizures of narcotics within the drug trafficking hit include:

  • 1 300 kg of cocaine;
  • 22 kg and 1 107 cannabis plants;
  • 19 601 ecstasy pills;
  • 63 kg of amphetamine;
  • 6 kg of MDMA

The overall results from all actions targeting drug and human trafficking, migrant smuggling and environmental crime include:

  • 411 arrests;
  • 54 potential victims of human trafficking identified;
  • 1 million cigarettes and 1 223 kg of tobacco seized;
  • 374 new investigations initiated;
  • 37 000+ law enforcement officers participating;
  • 475 000+ checks of persons (250 000+), means of transportation, postal packages, houses and warehouses;
  • 166 wildlife species seized;
  • 2 471 kg of illegal fisheries.

As the European hub for law enforcement cooperation, Europol coordinated the 2019 large-scale Joint Action Days and supported the operational activities with secure information exchange, cross-checking of data against Europol’s databases and operational analysis, as well as on-the-spot operational support.

The latest action days, JAD Danube 4 and JAD Western Balkans together resulted in 301 arrests and multiple seizures, including 163 forged or falsified documents, 57 weapons and firearms and more than 900 pieces of ammunition.

Tuesday, 13 March – second CND day

Side events

Use of social marketing in promoting online interventions

The event offered by the Governments of Croatia and Finland, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section.

Chair of the session was Elena Hedoux, Programme Manager of the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe; opening remarks were given by Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch, UNODC and speakers were Mirka Vainikka, Executive Director of “Free from Drugs“, Thomas Kattau, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe and Marko Markus from the Office for Combating Drugs Abuse of the Government of the Republic of Croatia.

Interesting points from the presentations include:

  • Gilberto Gerra: Instead of selling something, companies work on changing behaviour. It doesn’t end with companies speaking only to customers, but customers start speaking with each other. We need to explore how to reach psychonauts 2 (an upcoming platform video game being built on the success of a classic action/adventure platformer; it is an example of a crowdfunding campaign to create a sequel of the success of the initial game)
  • Thomas Kattau: If you invest in on-line tools, you need to invest in marketing these tools. Companies have much more money to invest into (social) marketing than public institutions (not to talk about civil society – our comment).
  • Marko Markus: presented the work of the Office using a Facebook webpage and a special page drughelp.eu. He underlined that 90% of people who are in need never asked for help!

All presentations of the event are available following this link. More about the event is already available from a special web page prepared by the Office.

Drugs and the darknet

The Government of Bulgaria and the European Union hosted the event to discuss connection between drugs and darknet, a largely anonymous platform for trading a range of illicit goods and service. Chair of the event Svetoslav Spassov, Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the UN introduced the issue reminding participants that it is estimated that around 2/3 of the offers on darknet are drug related. The accessibility and quick adaptability of on-line markets pose a growing threat.

Alexis Goosdeel, EMCDDA Director presented facts from the recent report which shows extreme growth of criminal actions on Internet and darknet especially. EMCDDA discovered in several cases that what was sold was what was promoted. There is a good system of rating the products and sellers. Most of the traffic are done in Germany, UK and The Netherlands. Most of the products are non-cocaine stimulants and new psychoactive substances. Alphabay grew very fast since creation in December 2014 and in two years traffic there was twice bigger than the one of the pioneer Silk Road (which was closed by law enforcement in 2017). Due to anonymity, there is no wholesale at darknet because of the risk connected.

Liamonas Vasiliauskas from the Operations Directorate, Europol confirmed that many vendors offer a variety of drugs. Monthly revenue of 8 major criminal groups on darknet is 10 – 12 million Euro. What Europol don’t know are drug sources, chemicals and equipment, money flows, role of organised crime, etc. Due to darknet, regular post package services grew significantly in recent years. Most of the EU countries don’t have a specific darknet investigation team – Europol designed a model of establishing one. FBI, DEA and Dutch Police closed two networks in operations Bayonet (Silk Road) and GraveSac (Hansa). Europol don’t have information if this seizure of networks caused decrease of traffic or the market quickly recovered.

Peter Mihoc from the European Commission added that one of the main issues is the knowledge gap. Another is lack of equipment needed for operations of law enforcement agencies.

Law enforcement and sustainable drug use prevention

The event was chaired by John Redman, Society for the Advancement of Global Understanding, while panelists included commander Juan Antonio Cano Carrasco, representative of the Spanish Army, Angelo Lange, local law enforcement in Milano, Italy, Dr Christian Mirre, biologist, Foundation for a Drug Free Europe.

Interesting points from the presentations include:

  • John Redman: Spoke about a success of fighting meth problem in Southern California in cooperation between law enforcement and people from communities, including those from Mexico.
  • Juan Antonio Cano Carrasco: They operate as the part of society – and respond to the needs of it. Army is included in the national action plan against drugs. All three Army (VID) are involved: infantry, navy and air forces and coordination is typical army one. Most efforts invest in prevention, working towards a drug free world. Drug tests are performed when joining the army but also regularly, both to officer and all the military (all army is professional). They also have a program of informing their military. They invest in creating a favourable environment so that they don’t get interest to use drugs. One element of the programme is cooperation with communities, on all levels, which includes training, information sharing and free time activities of the military.
  • Angelo Lange: Drug is being sold by people of all different kinds. Milano experienced a dramatic increase of cocaine traffic in 2007. National Police created a special unit, who were not in uniforms to fight the problem in every possible environment. They made a success thanks to anonymous reports from citizens and trust they built with people, including drug users. On contrary they do prevention in a social context. He published a book “Life in dust: drogues, fuck you” in 2010 and a year earlier he recorded a movie “Sbiri” (Caps, in slang). In 2016, a mural was created through a competition of teams reflecting on his book. Also, a theatrical play was set on the basis of his and another author.
  • Christian Mirre: 1.117 US Police departments adopted a partnership program on drug prevention. The same happened in the Czech Republic, South Africa and several other countries. They prepared a curriculum package material translated already in 17 languages.

Other side events

Notes about some interesting side events are available: