HomeNewsBriefTraffickers Evolving More Sophisticated Drug Mule Operations
BRIEF

Traffickers Evolving More Sophisticated Drug Mule Operations

COLOMBIA / 15 AUG 2016 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Spanish police have broken up a network that allegedly moved cocaine from Colombia to Spain using a sophisticated and innovative twist on a classic method -- the drug mule -- demonstrating how even basic smuggling methods are always evolving.

On August 13, Spanish police announced they had arrested 30 people and seized 83 kilos of cocaine over the course of a yearlong investigation into a network they accuse of moving Colombian cocaine into Madrid airport using teams of traffickers working on commercial flights.

According to police, each flight would feature several "mules" carrying packets of cocaine in bags with a false bottom, working on the logic that even if some of the mules were identified and stopped, others would still make it through. In addition, there would be decoys on each flight, who would act suspiciously and be carrying packets of innocuous white powder in order to draw the attention of customs officials away from the actual mules. The trafficking teams also featured other passengers who acted as logistical coordinators overseeing the whole operation, from departure to the handover of the drugs on arrival.

In one flight, the authorities detained 14 people allegedly working together, half of whom were carrying drugs while the others performed the other roles.

InSight Crime Analysis

Since the cocaine boom of the 1980s, traffickers have consistently evolved ever more innovative techniques for transnational drug shipments. They have designed sophisticated transport methods, including drones, submarines and even catapults, while also developing new techniques to conceal cocaine, which they can turn into odorless liquids or be disguised as bricks of coal.

However, despite this constant technical innovation, simple, traditional methods such as the use of mules remain an important part of transnational drug trafficking.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

Although each mule can carry only a small quantity of drugs, they are seen as disposable by the actual traffickers, who can simply play the numbers. They flood flights with mules so that customs authorities cannot trace them all and if any get caught the loss in profits is small while the mule can simply be replaced with another desperate person willing to risk everything for quick money.

The operations of the network moving cocaine from Colombia to Spain and its use of decoys and logistical coordinators highlights how even these basic techniques are always evolving as traffickers seek new ways to maintain their advantage over the security forces.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 3 FEB 2016

Colombia has extended a nationwide ban on carrying firearms until the end of 2016, an attempt to reduce violent deaths…

COLOMBIA / 5 OCT 2012

The last known leader of the Rastrojos drug gang, Luis Enrique Calle Serna, has handed himself…

COLOMBIA / 26 OCT 2016

Colombia's Attorney General has announced what appears to be the first ever seizure of mining-related FARC assets, potentially stirring up…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.