A joint operation between security forces in Colombia and Australia has broken up an alleged drug trafficking ring, in the latest sign that Colombian organized crime is seeking to tap into new global markets.
Five Australians and one Colombian have been charged with drug smuggling after officials seized nearly half a ton of cocaine and methamphetamine in raids in both countries, reported The Associated Press.
The joint operation began in May 2014, when Colombian police tipped off their Australian counterparts about the arrival of a suspected drug trafficker in the country, according to The Associated Press. The Australian police put the man under surveillance, and he led them to his Australian business partners.
As a result of the intelligence gathering, Colombian police discovered 243 kilos of cocaine hidden among flowers set to be exported to Europe in January, and another 10 kilos bound for Australia in February.
In Australia, police discovered 230 kilos of liquid methamphetamine hidden in lemonade bottles in a Sydney warehouse that they believe is linked to the same trafficking network.
InSight Crime Analysis
Australia is one of the most attractive emerging markets for drug traffickers. Per capita, the country has one of the world's highest drug use rates and some of the biggest markups on imported drugs.
This most recent case is one of several to suggest that Colombian organized crime networks are attempting to gain a foothold in the market, and over the last year Colombians have been arrested for both trafficking drugs into Australia and distributing them within the country.
This fits into a larger pattern that InSight Crime has observed in research both in the Americas and in Europe: the migration of Colombian organized crime, which has now set up shop everywhere from Bolivia to Spain.
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The seeking of new routes and markets is likely a response to the Mexican cartels' domination of the US drug trade, which has reduced the Colombians to the less lucrative role of supplier when it comes to the world's biggest cocaine market. The Colombians do not have the power to challenge the Mexicans for the right to traffic into the United States, forcing them to look elsewhere if they want to operate higher up the drug trafficking value chain.
However, this is not an invasion of monolithic drug cartels. Colombia's underworld is more fragmented and decentralized than ever, and -- as suggested by this most recent case and others like it -- the prevailing model for such operations seems to be small cells and decentralized networks.