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Sun Jun 23, 2019, 04:27 PM

The new drug highway: Pacific islands at centre of cocaine trafficking boom

Source: The Guardian

The new drug highway: Pacific islands at centre of cocaine trafficking boom

Explosion in number of boats carrying cocaine and meth from Latin America to Australia is causing havoc for islands on the way

Cocaine used as washing powder: police struggle with Pacific drug influx

Sun 23 Jun 2019 20.00 BST Last modified on Sun 23 Jun 2019 21.30 BST

It is the drug route you’ve never heard of: a multi-billion dollar operation involving cocaine and methamphetamines being packed into the hulls of sailing boats in the US and Latin America and transported to Australia via south Pacific islands more often thought of as holiday destinations than narcotics hubs.

In the past five years there has been an explosion in the number of boats, sometimes carrying more than a tonne of cocaine, making the journey across the Pacific ocean to feed Australia’s growing and very lucrative drug habit.

Caught in the middle are countries such as Fiji, which the Guardian visited as part of a series investigating the Pacific drug highway. Other countries affected include Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and New Caledonia, whose waters and beaches are being used as storage grounds for billions of dollars worth of illicit drugs.

Hundreds of kilograms of cocaine have washed up on remote Pacific beaches, ships laden with drugs have run aground on far flung coral reefs, and locals have discovered huge caches of drugs stored in underwater nets attached to GPS beacons.

“Draw a direct line between Bogotá and Canberra and it goes straight through the islands,” says Dr Andreas Schloenhardt, professor of criminal law at the University of Queensland.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/24/the-new-drug-highway-pacific-islands-at-centre-of-cocaine-trafficking-boom

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