The UK has become the biggest user of powder cocaine in Europe, an investigator with the National Crime Agency said.
Estimates on the amount being trafficked into the country has risen three-fold since 2011 to 117 tonnes, Lawrence Gibbons of the National Crime Agency told The Times.
The head of drugs threat at the agency added that the ‘middle class’ stereotype of cocaine no longer rings true.
He told the paper: ‘A lot of the consignments we see coming into Europe – through Spain, Belgium or the Netherlands mainly – a significant proportion is destined for the UK. The UK is the biggest user of powder cocaine in Europe.’
Mr Gibbons said tougher policing would not diminish demand for the drug and called for ‘education and treatment’, saying users should be made aware of the harm done to families and the ‘reality of a trade that is run by criminal gangs who use guns, violence, trafficking and debt bondage’.
Police seized 9,645kg (9.6 tonnes) of cocaine in 2018/19 – the largest amount since records began in 1973, according to the Home Office.
The amount of the class A drug seized by police in 2018/19 was up 12% or 6,307kg on the previous period when 3,338kg was confiscated.
More recently, UK Border Force officials found 31lb (14kg) of cocaine stashed among two consignments of face masks after stopping a Polish van driver near Calais.
Three men were arrested after cocaine with a potential street value of £3 million was found in a ‘purpose-built hide’ in a lorry which arrived at Dover on a ferry from France on April 23.
And two men were charged earlier in May with allegedly breaking into the London Container Terminal in Tilbury to retrieve packages of drugs with a potential street value of £1 million from a refrigerated container which had arrived from Belize.