HomeNewsBriefLatAm Drug Traffickers Take Aim at New Zealand, Australia
BRIEF

LatAm Drug Traffickers Take Aim at New Zealand, Australia

ARGENTINA / 12 AUG 2019 BY JOSEFINA SALOMÓN EN

A series of small seizures in which Argentine cocaine smugglers sought to reach New Zealand provides evidence of the growing appeal of Pacific markets for Latin American crime groups, and offers clues about the future potential of these routes.

On July 19, authorities in Argentina seized half a kilogram of cocaine in a package at a Buenos Aires post office that was bound for New Zealand, La Nación reported.

Before that in June, authorities arrested a man at the Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires province as he tried to board a flight to the New Zealand city of Auckland. A body scan showed that he had swallowed 81 capsules of cocaine, amounting to about one kilogram of the drug.

SEE ALSO: Argentina News and Profile

In recent months, authorities in New Zealand have also stepped up security controls at airports, customs officials told the NZ Herald. Some of these airports serve direct flights to South American destinations, including Buenos Aires.

On May 5, customs authorities at the Auckland airport arrested two New Zealand nationals carrying seven kilograms of cocaine and nearly 15 kilograms of methamphetamine in their luggage.

A few months earlier, a man from Argentina was arrested and later sentenced to three years in prison after he tried to smuggle nearly half a kilogram of cocaine into Auckland.

New Zealand has seen a rise in drug consumption in recent years. The use of methamphetamines tops the list nationally while cocaine is particularly prevalent in Auckland, according to police data.

InSight Crime Analysis

Though the quantities seized were small, the frequent discovery of cocaine hidden in packages and on smugglers headed to New Zealand shows that the consumer market there is ripe for exploitation.

Both New Zealand and its neighbor, Australia, have some of the world's highest street prices for drugs, particularly for cocaine and methamphetamines, according to data from the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Commercial flights offering direct routes between Buenos Aires and Auckland facilitate the route for small-time traffickers. For large traffickers, the region's high potential earnings, coupled with an increasing number of users, makes it worthwhile in spite of the difficulty of transporting illegal drugs halfway across the world.

In Australia, the powerful Sinaloa Cartel has been supplying drugs for years, according to Mike Vigil, a former Chief of International Operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The Mexico-based group ”started sending small amounts of drugs to test the waters, to test if their smuggling techniques would work and then went large. They established local connections with distribution networks,” Vigil told InSight Crime.

SEE ALSO: Mexico-Australia Meth Connection Reveals Fresh Crime Dynamics

“The Sinaloa Cartel are experts at logistics and are able to move very large quantities of drugs," he added.

The group is believed to use a maritime route that takes advantage of Australia's extremely extensive coast, which is particularly difficult for authorities to patrol.

Cargo ships are also a favored transport method. Seven million large shipping containers pass through the country’s docks every year, according to an investigation by Australia's 7 News. Between 2013 and 2014, however, it was estimated that less than 15,000 containers were inspected.

The potential earnings make the risk of a shipment being seized worth it for the criminal groups.

"A kilogram of cocaine can sell for $24,000 in the United States, depending on the area. The same kilogram in Australia can sell for as much as five times more," Vigil explained.

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

CARIBBEAN / 28 JAN 2015

In her book Mares de Cocaina (Seas of Cocaine), author Ana Lilia Perez explores how and why maritime drug trafficking has become…

EXTORTION / 2 MAR 2014

A report by Mexico's National Citizen Observatory reveals that extortion has grown nine-fold over the last 17 years, underscoring a…

MEXICO / 6 JAN 2014

Mexico's citizen self-defense or vigilante groups have made major shows of strength as the year has begun, indicating that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…