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Have the southern ports of the UK become an alternative route to smuggle cocaine into Europe hidden in containers?

The increase in drug seizures from Latin America over the past year suggests so. The National Crime Agency recently released statistics highlighting a 161% increase in cocaine volumes seized between the beginning of 2020 and the first months of 2021 in the country's southern ports. That increase surely doesn't just depend on stronger controls, stated Roy McComb, a former director in charge of the NCA and currently a consultant on organized crime.

In mid-March, authorities seized 3.7 tons of cocaine that had arrived at the English port of Southampton hidden in a banana container from Colombia. This is the largest cocaine seizure in the country since 2015.

In January, authorities found nearly 100 kilos of cocaine in another shipment of bananas from Colombia in the same area. A year earlier, in January 2021, they discovered 900 kilos of cocaine in a container loaded with bananas that were transiting through Southampton to the Belgian port of Antwerp.

Throughout 2021, authorities also interdicted 2 tons of cocaine in the nearby port of Portsmouth and another 2 tons off the coast of Plymouth. These shipments sailed from Colombia and the Caribbean, respectively.

“There is definitely an improvement in the authorities' response between the Americas and the UK and, I would add, good cooperation between the UK and Europe,” Roy McComb told InSight Crime. "However, I believe that there is now a greater flow of cocaine, which is why there are larger seizures," he said.



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