Dealers are using food delivery services to transport drugs during lockdown, Interpol warns

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Police from Ireland to Malaysia have uncovered cocaine, marijuana and ketamine hidden among takeaways

World | The Independent

Drug dealers are using food delivery drivers to smuggle their products around during coronavirus lockdowns, Interpol has warned.

The international policing organisation said on Thursday it had received reports of the tactic from countries including the UK, Ireland, Spain and Malaysia.

Cocaine, marijuana, ketamine and ecstasy were among the drugs identified as being transported by delivery drivers, who have become an even more common sight during the Covid-19 pandemic as restaurants have switched to become takeaways.

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As well as actual delivery drivers working on the side for drug gangs, Interpol also said in some cases the drivers were unwittingly transporting illegal substances.

There have also been instances of dealers disguising themselves as food delivery workers wearing fake or stolen branded clothing.

In one case last month in Spain, the national police arrested seven people dressed as delivery drivers in Alicante and Valencia, after they were caught delivering cocaine and marijuana hidden in food takeaway backpacks.

In Ireland, officers discovered 8kg of cocaine and two handguns hidden inside a pizza boxes supposedly on their way to be delivered to a hungry family in lockdown.

Senior anti-narcotics officials have warned large Latin American drug cartels have sent larger than usual cocaine shipments across the ocean to Europe in recent weeks, including one hidden inside a legitimate load of squid, Reuters news agency reported.

Ironically, there have also been examples of drug dealers turning to food distribution. In South Africa, one church pastor has corralled drug gangs which rule the informal shanty town settlements in Cape Town into delivering food parcels to families struggling under the lockdown.

Some British police forces have reported the quiet streets during the pandemic have assisted their crackdown against drug dealers, as they are now easier to identify on the empty pavements and street corners.

Violent gangs in South Africa call a truce to help people during pandemic

Detective Superintendent Jo Banks, from Sussex Police, said last month her officers were making “far more” arrests than normal because drug activity now stands out.

Other forces have seen drug dealers dress up as postal delivery workers, joggers, and even nurses to give them an excuse to be out and about during the lockdown, according to Vice.

In Liverpool, some dealers have reportedly even taken to carrying a box of groceries in their car at all times so they could claim they were on their way to help out a grandparent if pulled over by police.

As well as complicating the situation for drug dealers, the pandemic has had a significant impact on those battling drug addiction.

The strict lockdowns imposed across Europe in particular have caused problems for those who rely on regular treatment and support services to combat their addictions, Politico has reported.

Those who use methadone as an opioid substitute have in some places been forced to regularly travel far from their homes despite the lockdown, even though they are considered by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control as “particularly vulnerable” to Covid-19 because of the likelihood of pre-existing health problems such as HIV infections or hepatitis.

  • Dealers are using food delivery services to transport drugs during lockdown, Interpol warns photo


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