Mexican cartels smuggling drugs into Europe, police warn

Europol discovers drug specialists from Mexico involved in concealing shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine

A tunnel from Mexico into San Diego, California, in which police found a vast drug haul in May. Europe fears Mexican cartels are running drugs on the continent. EPA
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Mexican cartels and EU criminal networks have been working together to traffic large amounts of drugs, a new report has found.

Investigations by crime agency Europol and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have revealed the groups have been smuggling methamphetamine and cocaine from Latin America to the EU.

The teams have discovered the practice of concealing shipments, such as cocaine being hidden in blocks of concrete.

They have also found plans by the networks to establish cocaine smuggling routes from Colombia to airports in southern Italy using private jets.

"This new form of criminal collaboration also extends to the production of methamphetamine and cocaine hydrochloride in some EU member states," a joint report published by the teams has revealed.

"Despite no current indications of a fentanyl market in the EU, the discovery of fentanyl production facilities and seizures of the substance in the EU raises concerns over the development of a fentanyl market.

"Law enforcement have arrested Mexican laboratory specialists — also known as 'cooks' — working in EU-based production sites," the report added.

"The different actors include facilitators such as brokers, laboratory specialists, envoys, intermediaries and money-laundering service providers.

"These actors are especially important due to their unique knowledge of how to produce higher yields of more potent end product, and obtain larger and more profitable crystals of methamphetamine."

A recent assessment revealed more than half of the drug gangs in Europe comprise various nationalities.

"The EU’s most recent Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment showed that criminal networks across the EU are increasingly international and specialised in scope, with 65 per cent of criminal groups active in the EU composed of members of multiple nationalities," the report said.

"The presence of Mexican criminal actors collaborating with EU-based actors in the EU drug market follows this trend."

The report stated that Mexican cartels were known to co-operate with EU-based criminal networks to traffic drugs to some of Europe's ports for further distribution within Europe and to "more lucrative markets" in Asia and Oceania.

"Corrupt officials in the public and private sectors act as facilitators and help to increase the likelihood of successfully trafficking drug consignments to the EU," the report said.

"On US soil, Mexican cartels have a history of establishing drug-trafficking hubs and strong criminal partnerships, and of using violence to gain control over the territory where they operate.

"An increased presence of Mexican cartels in the EU could also result in increased profits for them and their EU-based criminal collaborators, as well as an increase in violence in the EU. The DEA and Europol will continue to act in concert in monitoring and fighting these developments."

Updated: December 15, 2022, 11:30 AM