HomeNewsBriefHuge UK Cocaine Seizure on Private Jet Signals Traffickers’ Growing Boldness
BRIEF

Huge UK Cocaine Seizure on Private Jet Signals Traffickers' Growing Boldness

COCAINE / 7 FEB 2018 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

A foiled attempt to smuggle half a metric ton of cocaine in a private jet from Colombia’s main international airport to the United Kingdom suggests crime groups are becoming bolder in their efforts to offload the South American country’s booming cocaine production.

UK authorities announced last week that they had seized 15 cocaine-loaded suitcases and arrested five European passengers on January 29 at the Farnborough Airport near London. The private jet had departed the previous day from Bogotá’s El Dorado international airport, the largest in Colombia.

The United Kingdom’s Border Force described the shipment, worth around $70 million in the European country, as "one of the largest seizures of its kind" in UK history.

The private flight had raised suspicion due to the declared professions of the passengers, according to the Colombian magazine Semana. Among the five passengers who had supposedly paid for the $300,000 flight were two construction workers, an assistant chef, a hairdresser and an unemployed individual. Three of the suspects had entered Colombia with a tourist visa in November 2017 with the intention of buying cocaine for Italy's ‘Ndrangheta mafia, according to El Espectador.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the seizure sparked an investigation by Colombian authorities into the security failures that allowed the cocaine to take off from Bogotá. Colombian law enforcement is looking into the possibility that an individual disguised as a police officer may have helped load the drugs into the plane while it was in a hangar at El Dorado.

US and Colombian authorities suspect the shipment was overseen by a Colombian criminal structure that has revived the modus operandi of smuggling via private jets, according to Semana. This group is allegedly also behind the 1.2 metric tons of cocaine seized near the French border with Spain in November 2017, as well as the one metric ton aerial shipment seized a year earlier by French authorities in the southwestern city of Bayonne.

InSight Crime Analysis

As levels of cocaine production in Colombia have risen to new records in recent years, more of the drug has been flowing to Europe. And while most cocaine is shipped across the Atlantic via maritime cargo routes, the use of private planes appears to be a growing in popularity among traffickers.

In years past, traffickers preferred to fly drugs into West Africa, where they were shipped on to European markets via land and sea routes. However, recent seizures like the one in the United Kingdom indicate that trafficking groups are now taking greater risks by flying the cocaine straight into Europe, despite significantly stricter security and customs checks.

SEE ALSO: European Organized Crime

The boom in Colombian cocaine production has increased trafficking groups' capacity to absorb losses from seizures, and has thus emboldened them to carry out smuggling schemes that carry high risks, such as sending larger loads of drugs in individual shipments and flying cocaine-filled suitcases on private jets into major European urban centers.

Moreover, the European market has grown in popularity for Colombian traffickers, in part due to the dominance of Mexican groups in supplying cocaine to the United States, the world's largest market for the drug.

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

COLOMBIA / 8 JUL 2011

Eight Colombian soldiers have been sentenced to 60 years each in prison after being found guilty of the…

COLECTIVOS / 29 JAN 2018

Venezuela’s continued spiral into economic, political and social crisis and the demobilization of Colombia’s largest guerrilla group have shifted…

COLOMBIA / 16 SEP 2015

The hunt for the leadership of the Urabeños, Colombia's most powerful criminal group, has now been ongoing for over half a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…

THE ORGANIZATION

Exploring Climate Change and Organized Crime

10 SEP 2021

In July, InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley moderated a panel for the Climate Reality Project's regional series of workshops for young climate activists in the Americas. The week-long event…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gearing Up a New Class of Interns

3 SEP 2021

InSight Crime is readying its newest class of interns – from universities in Europe and the Americas – to begin investigative work on a number of high-impact projects. For the…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Environmental Crime in the Amazon

27 AUG 2021

Next week, InSight Crime launches an investigation – conducted with Brazilian think-tank the Igarapé Institute – on the sophisticated organized crime structures and armed groups that…