Authorities in Colombia have been preparing for Valentine's Day by inspecting flower shipments to make sure they are not laced with cocaine, yet another example of the creative methods drug traffickers use to skirt anti-drug controls.
Colombia's police are stepping up the security measures to make sure drug traffickers will not get hold of the 150 tons of flowers that leave Colombia everyday between January and March, reported El Nuevo Herald.
Some 100 policemen and 15 drug sniffing dogs inspect the flowers that reach Bogota's El Dorado airport before they are scanned and placed aboard the 30 flights that ship flowers abroad each day during the first three months of the year, when demand is highest due to Valentine's Day.
Drug traffickers are known to hide cocaine in between the flowers' stems, petals and roots. Yet no incidents of "poisonous roses," as cocaine-infected flower shipments are commonly referred to by the authorities, have been registered so far this year.
According to the Colombian Association of Flower Exporters, Colombia is the world's second largest flowers exporter behind The Netherlands, and the number one supplier to the United States.
InSight Crime Analysis
Only a relatively small amount of cocaine can be smuggled out of Colombia via flower shipments. But flowers remains a popular option for drug traffickers because like cocaine, the largest consumer market is the United States and they can be exported 12 months a year. US Customs and Border Protection officials tend to be concerned with foreign insects and pests when inspecting flowers, but their growing use by drug traffickers has led the authorities to step up their anti-drug efforts.
The US is not the only intended destination for this special Valentine's Day gift, however, as authorities have intercepted shipments bound for numerous other parts of the world that have an appetite for both Colombian flowers and cocaine.
SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles
In March 2013, the director of Russia's Federal Narcotics Service said Moscow police had identified drug trafficking routes that used Colombian flowers to smuggle narcotics into the country. In February 2012, Colombian authorities found 105 kilos of cocaine camouflaged inside flower crates destined for Paris. And in January 2015, the police discovered 243 kilos of cocaine among flowers headed to Europe, and another 10 kilos set to be exported to Australia in February.