French police stumped oversource of beached cocaine

11th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

BORDEAUX, France, May 10 (AFP) - For weeks now French police have been trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious packages of cocaine that have been washing up on France's wide southwestern beaches.

BORDEAUX, France, May 10 (AFP) - For weeks now French police have been trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious packages of cocaine that have been washing up on France's wide southwestern beaches.

So far 700 kilograms (1,500 pounds) worth many millions have been brought in by the tides to beaches stretching from the Basque coast near Spain to the tourist haven of Arcachon further north, since a first package in mid-January.

While the size of the parcels vary, each one is wrapped in the same airtight packaging decorated with small anchors, crowns and dollar symbols, according to a local source.

Police have advanced the most plausible hypothesis that the booty was thrown overboard by a smuggler en route to Spain or Portugal when a coast guard vessel arrived.

Analysis has shown the drug to be of a superior, pure quality from Latin America, probably Colombia, the world's top producer.

Cocaine of the quality washing up unsupervised in France could sell for as much as USD 100,000 (EUR 84,000) per kilogram on the open market - or USD 70 million for the total haul.

French police have placed the beaches under high surveillance to make sure the parcels do not fall into the wrong hands.

Last week police arrested a drug addict in the southern city of Bayonne who had found 500 grams (half a pound) of cocaine on the beach, sold half and kept the rest for himself.

Meanwhile, investigators have made a list of possible traffickers after studying the movements of ships travelling in the Gulf of Gascony between Spain and France.

The most common routes to smuggle South American cocaine into Europe go through Caribbean and up to the Iberian coast, according to Spain's interior ministry.

Increasingly drug traffickers are abandoning air routes and turning toward fishing boats or cruise ships to sneak their contraband into Western markets.

While France has long been considered a transit country for cocaine, it is turning into a consumer nation.

The drug is an increasingly popular choice for well-heeled youth and at techno parties, according to a recent report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

Between 2000 and 2002, the number of young people saying they had tried cocaine doubled, according to the French interior ministry.

In 2002, 2.5 tons of cocaine was seized by French authorities.


©AFP

Subject: French news

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