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The Channel Tunnel: Cocaine Bridge from Europe to UK

COCAINE / 24 JUN 2022 BY ALESSANDRO FORD EN

A large cargo of cocaine has again been seized at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel between the UK and Europe, displaying how the undersea railway line is regularly used to traffic South American drugs.  

In early June, two Dutch and Belgian nationals were detained and 200 kilograms of cocaine and heroin seized in their van by UK border agents near Calais, France, reported the Evening Standard on June 21.

It was allegedly one of the largest ever drug interdictions at the Channel Tunnel, though larger quantities of cocaine have been captured there in the last year.

SEE ALSO: UK’s Southern Ports Present Secondary Route for Europe Cocaine

In March, a Dutch lorry driver was arrested at the same entry point with 63 kilograms of cocaine, while in November 2021, nearly 420 kilograms of cocaine were found in another lorry. In August last year, a similar combined cargo of cocaine and heroin was also discovered in a lorry coming from the Netherlands.

“The English Channel [Tunnel] is an important route for the smuggling of cocaine from Europe on trucks,” according to Anna Sergi, professor of criminology at the University of Essex.

As “the closest thing to a land connection that we have with Europe…[it] has always been a vulnerable site,” she told InSight Crime in an April 2022 interview.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Channel Tunnel’s role in cocaine smuggling is all about geography. Located near Europe’s top drug reception points in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, it is the only land route connecting the continent to Britain, Europe’s largest cocaine market.

Many of the drivers arrested at the tunnel terminal are therefore either Dutch or Belgian or have come from those countries, which given their prominence in heroin importation and synthetic drug production also explains the heroin or amphetamine loads sometimes found in cocaine cargos.

SEE ALSO: Ireland Seizures Highlight Growing Role in Cocaine Trade

Furthermore, seizures made at the tunnel terminal only reflect part of the illicit traffic. "When large quantities of cocaine are discovered in lorries in southern areas of the UK, there is a good chance they have passed through the tunnel," said Anna Sergi, a professor of criminology at the University of Essex.

“This could be, for example, from [as far away as] Spain…or from France or in similar fashion from Italy,” she told InSight Crime.

Finally, the recent collapse of the UK’s largest ferry service means many passengers and freight have been diverted to the Channel Tunnel, a situation which may force even more UK-bound cocaine through the 31-mile pipeline.

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