UK 'new hub for importing cocaine'
The UK is becoming an increasingly important hub for the importation of cocaine into the rest of Europe, the United Nations drugs body has warned.
Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are the traditional routes for the drug's entry to the EU, but the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said there had been a recent surge in cases of the UK being used as point of entry.
INCB president Hamid Ghodse explained: "It is not only the UK but the Netherlands also, Portugal also and Spain also. Traditionally they were the hub of the importing to Europe but now the UK is also one of the countries. Cocaine comes to the UK to be diverted to the rest of Europe."
The rise in the importance of the UK as a cocaine hub was recognised after an increase in the number of seizures taking place at ports of entry, he said.
Cocaine trafficking via the UK may have increased because of recent tightening of drug enforcement in countries such as Spain and Portugal. He added: "Drug traffickers are extremely clever. Whenever enforcement increases in one place they try to go to another place."
There had also been a significant and "very odd" increase in cocaine being imported through the Balkans as traffickers looked to exploit new entry points.
Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain accounted for about 70% of cocaine seized in Europe in 2008, although they accounted for only 25% of consumption of the drug.
The INCB annual report also warned that the use of designer drugs was continuing to escalate. Mr Ghodse called for a generic ban on the narcotics, and acknowledged the work the UK had done on controlling substances such as the designer drug mephedrone and the cannabis mimic "spice".
He explained: "Given the health risks posed by the abuse of designer drugs, we urge governments to adopt national control measures to prevent the manufacture, trafficking in and abuse of these substances. The recommendation is that for all of the newly emerging drugs, the designer drugs, it is always good to have a generic ban on it as a preventive issue."
He said there were at least 15 designer drugs being used in Europe and 51 in Japan.