Britain's illegal drugs trade is worth up to 8bn a year, a Home Office report has revealed.
Drugs are smuggled into the country by 300 major importers and distributed by 3,000 gangs, the research showed. The contraband is then sold on to users by 70,000 dealers, some with hundreds of customers.
The dealers earn an average of 100,000 a year and their annual turnover is estimated at between 7bn and 8bn equivalent to more than 40 per cent of Britain's alcohol sales and one third of its tobacco sales.
The Home Office study was based on 220 interviews with convicted dealers. It discovered enormous mark-ups in the value of class-A drugs between their production abroad and sale.
Cocaine costs 325 per kilo to manufacture in South America. By the time it is sold in Britain, after being smuggled via the Caribbean, its value has risen to 51,650 per kilo. Afghani heroin costs about 450 per kilo to make but sells for 75,750.