Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel has stayed ahead of the pack by expanding trafficking operations to Australia, one of the most lucrative cocaine markets in the world, according to a feature from NPR.
The Sinaloa Cartel has moved faster than some of its competitors in accessing the Australian market, US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence chief Rodney Benson told NPR. Seizures of the drug increased to 796 kilograms in fiscal year 2010-2011, up 103 percent on the previous year's total of 404 kilograms, according to Australian government figures.
The huge mark-up on the drug -- a kilo of cocaine can cost as much as $250,000 in Australia compared to lows of $12,000 in the US -- coupled with Australia's vast coastline have made the island an appealing prospect for transnational criminal organizations.
Though the Sinaloans are apparently one of the main groups responsible for shipments, sending the cocaine via routes in Central America, Europe, and the Pacific islands, the drugs are typically distributed in Australia through criminal groups with a domestic presence. These include Lebanese, Chinese and Albanian disapora groups, and Australian biker gangs, according to NPR.
These links have been fostered by Sinaloa members visiting Australia to establish business ties, according to Australian Federal investigators, with some Australian gang members even travelling to Latin America to do the same.
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Cocaine use in Australia has reportedly doubled in less than a decade, making the country an attractive prospect for expansion.
In 2010, police officials estimated that roughly half the cocaine entering Australia came from Mexican gangs, with the Sinaloa Cartel allegedly responsible for around 500 kilos per month. The fact that Sinaloa has been one of the most aggressive in entering Australia, according to the DEA, shows its continued global reach and ambition. It suggests that the organization feels it has a secure hold on the US market, and can afford to expand into other regions without spreading itself too thinly.
This does not just apply to the Australian market; the DEA's Benson told the US House of Representatioves sub-committee last year that Sinaloa is dominant in Europe and Asia, as well as Australia.