Europe hit by 'cocaine wave' sparking a rise in violence, Europol says

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By Mark Armstrong  with AP
Italian police intercepted a huge cocaine shipment in 2019
Italian police intercepted a huge cocaine shipment in 2019   -   Copyright  AP

Europe is being hit by a "wave of cocaine", according to Europol.

The law enforcement agency admits the problem is worse than it first realised, with organised crime networks better connected and increasingly violent.

On Friday, justice ministers from six western European countries met in Amsterdam and vowed to make entry points like harbours more secure amid a dramatic increase in drug traffic.

"For the last four years, we have seen record seizures in western Europe every consecutive year, with at least more than 240 tonnes of cocaine seized in 2021, at least, probably even more," explained Jan Op Gen Oorth, Europol's communications chief. 

"So that's a lot of cocaine on the market," he said.

Security officials have agreed to strengthen ties with Latin-American partners such as Peru and Colombia, where the UN says identified coca leaf plantations have increased by at least 43% since 2020.

Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine, and much of the product ends up in the US and Europe.

An EU report in May blamed record levels of drug trafficking for sparking violence across the continent.

The Netherlands has seen several high-profile deaths linked to cocaine gangs in the country, particularly in Amsterdam.

This included the country's best-known crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, who was gunned down in the street in the Dutch capital in July last year.

Prosecutors say his assassination was linked to his role in the trial of a Dutch drugs mafia kingpin.