Growing online trade has encouraged drug traffickers to increasingly use mail services to deliver cocaine to their customers, a top Russian police official in charge of fighting drug trafficking said.
“According to the latest information from Interpol, there is a trend towards a stable growth in cocaine deliveries using mail services,” Sergei Tikhonenko told RIA Novosti in an interview.
The number of such cases has increased “hundredfold, if not thousandfold” over the past few years, and drug traffickers have benefitted from the fact that it is impossible to check each package or letter, he said.
In particular, dealers have been actively using international mailing services such as DHL, FedEX, TNT Express and UPS to deliver drugs to their customers.
“This is an enormous headache for the entire world,” Tikhonenko said.
Russian drug control officials have actively cooperated with their foreign colleagues in fighting the growing trend, he said.
“There are several centers of international mail exchange where correspondence is accumulated before being sent to its intended country,” he said, adding that all correspondence sent to Russia from Latin America and Asia first goes to Frankfurt, Germany, where it undergoes checks.
“The Germans work very systematically not only with correspondence intended for their domestic market, but also with all mail that is transited through Germany,” Tikhonenko said. “They often discover cocaine in dispatches with doses sometimes up to a dozen kilograms.”
Drug dealers have also been increasingly making use of modern chemical technologies to increase the safety of cocaine deliveries, the official said.
“Progress achieved in the chemical industry allows making anything you want from cocaine: paper, clothes, plastic, and even imitation leather fabrics… you can also dilute cocaine with any liquid: oil, glue, caulk, or alcoholic drinks,” he said.
There was a case when drug dealers diluted a kilogram of cocaine with a bottle of whisky – “its weight changed, but the volume [of liquid] remained the same,” he added.
Delivering Latin American cocaine to Russia in bricks is already considered “primitive,” Tikhonenko said.
“There were cases when drug dealers hid large doses of cocaine in ore cargoes, in frozen fish, fruit puree and concentrates…[they used] huge 200-liter barrels full of vacuum packs which cannot be inspected using the equipment that we possess,” he added.
Some 2.5 million Russians are addicted to drugs, according to government statistics, and 90 percent of them use heroin, which is trafficked from Afghanistan via former Soviet Central Asian republics. Russians consume some 70 tons of Afghan heroin annually.
Cocaine is less widespread in Russia, with three to five tons of the drug originating from South America being consumed in the country every year, according to the Russian Federal Drug Control Service.
About 30,000-40,000 Russians die annually from drug-related instances, compared to some 200,000 such deaths worldwide, according to UN estimates.