Cocaine with purity levels as little as 5% is being sold on the streets across Northern Ireland and the UK, security chiefs warned today.
The killer drug is being bulked up with pharmaceutical products to substantially increase profits for drug barons, particularly at a time when wholesale prices are soaring.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency told the 2008 Association of Chief Police Officers conference in Belfast today that the wholesale price of cocaine is currently at an all time high.
SOCA deputy director Neill Giles said that wholesale prices of cocaine have risen by 35% over the past five years, with the price on the continent even higher, due to rising demand. Currently a kilo of cocaine is selling wholesale for £36,000.
To increase profits the powder is being cut with pharmaceutical drugs.
One pharmaceutical drug being added, even before it leaves the source in Latin America, is an animal worming drug.
“Purity levels of street cocaine have fallen. There is much less cocaine and much more cutting agents,” Mr Giles said.
Since April 13 tones of cutting agents have been seized in the UK.
“We see dealers selling virtually anything, passing it off as cocaine. People are actually using as little as 5% cocaine and 95% chemical cocktail,” he added.
Much of the money generated through the sale of cocaine in the UK is laundered back to the source through property and assets.
The Director General of SOCA, Bill Hughes, revealed that while overall cocaine usage is stable, it is costing the UK economy 15bn per year.
He added that Latin America, particularly Columbia, dominates the bulk of cocaine trade to the UK and Europe.
“The UK is a very attractive market in terms of profit and prices,” he warned.
He also said that 90% of heroin used in the UK is coming from Afghanistan .
Mr Hughes added that in order to crack down on drugs the personal risk of imprisonment must be increased and cash flow stemmed.