Drug smugglers turn to airfreight

SOUTH American drug smugglers are increasingly buying old freighters and flying their shipments of cocaine to Africa for subsequent distribution in Europe.

The smugglers traditionally relied on ocean freight but European navies are cracking down on drugs smuggled into Africa. Airfreight to Africa provides fast, cheaper and more reliable dispersal of the drugs into countries without the sophisticated detection equipment that European countries have.

“The sky’s the limit,” said one Sierra Leone trafficker to US Drug Enforcement Administration investigators.

“We started stopping the maritime traffic, so then they started going to air traffic more and more,” said Theodore Leggett, of the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna.

“The quantity of cocaine distributed and the means employed to distribute it were extraordinary,” said US prosecutors who have finally nailed some of the gangs involved. They described it as a conspiracy to “spread vast quantities of cocaine throughout the world by way of cargo airplanes”. 

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