British customs officers seized cocaine worth more than $1.3 million that was being smuggled in a consignment of face masks in the Channel Tunnel amid the coronavirus pandemic. This comes as shocking given that the United Kingdom has been struggling to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Face masks and other protective gear have been in short supply globally, and UK too has been facing a similar crisis. It seems drug smugglers tried to take advantage of the situation in an attempt to get the contraband into the United Kingdom. The seizure is also an example of how smugglers are trying to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to carry illegal acts.
Smugglers take advantage of coronavirus outbreak
The cocaine worth $1.3 million was hidden in a shipment of face masks but couldn't make its way into the UK as it was seized by the British customs officials in the UK customs zone of the Channel Tunnel that connects France to England. The cocaine was wrapped in 15 packages and was split into the different boxed stuffed with face masks. The total cocaine weighed around 14 kilograms
The customs officials intercepted the van, which was Polish-registered and was being driven by a 34-year-old Police man. The driver was arrested. "This seizure is further evidence of the way criminal networks are attempting to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to their own ends," said Darren Herbert, the National Crime Agency's operations manager for the port of Dover.
NCA to investigate the case
Following the seizure of the cocaine and the arrest of the driver, Border Forces said that the investigation into the bust has now been transferred to the National Crime Agency (NCA). Regulators are now inspecting the masks to see if they are still safe to use. Needless to say, the smugglers tried to take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak and hid the cocaine in the face mask shipment.
United Kingdom, like other countries has been facing acute shortage of face masks and other protective gear. The smugglers, expectedly, found the consignment to be a safe option to smuggle the cocaine, given that such shipments carrying emergency goods wouldn't get delayed at the border. Europe's cocaine market is worth more than $10 billion. Per the latest United Nations drug data, global cocaine production soared to 1,976 tons of 100 percent pure in 2017, the all-time highest.