Drug abuse: Seizures double in a year as traffickers turn to Channel tunnel

The Channel tunnel is the fastest growing route for drug trafficking, unpublished figures reveal. Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent, talks to customs officers about changing tactics and the new threat.

Seizures of drugs being smuggled under the Channel have doubled in the past year, statistics obtained by The Independent reveal.

The amount of cocaine found on vehicles being brought to Britain through the tunnel has leapt sevenfold in the past 12 months, more than four times as much heroin has been confiscated and three times the quantity of cannabis. The value of the drugs snatched has doubled since 1996 to about pounds 16.8m- worth at street prices in 1997.

Customs officers say that drug traffickers are increasingly targeting the tunnel. The undersea network is considered to have several advantages for the smugglers including hiding the origin of the couriers as everyone comes through France.

Among the recent trends noticed by Customs are an increase in age of the couriers - a 75-year-old Dutchman was found with 7.5kg of cocaine hidden in his caravan - and traffickers pretending to be businessmen.

The smugglers are also becoming more ingenious about hiding their illegal goods. For example in October 7kg of cocaine was found hidden in the front seat passenger's emergency airbag and a Brazilian woman hid cocaine in plaster casts on her legs.

Ever since the tunnel was opened in November 1994 there has been fear that it would become a major route for drug trafficking. Andrew Filmer, of the Customs and Excise's Tourist Anti Smuggling division at Coquelles, near Calais, which checks people with vehicles entering Britain, said: "We're finding a lot more Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine, which is reflecting the increase demand. There's growing confidence about using the tunnel to bring in drugs. There's also more smugglers dressing up as businessmen as a cover."

Bob Arthurs, head of Customs and Excise at Waterloo International, which deals with foot passengers on the Eurostar, said couriers swallowing packages of cocaine or hiding them inside their body was still a popular method of smuggling at the moment. "The numbers and amounts are steadily going up, people are becoming more aware of the advantage of Eurostar and how it can help lose their identity."

For example traffickers from South American countries that have drug connections are attempt to disguise where they have come from by travelling through several countries. A typical route is from Brazil to Portugal, Spain and then France. Most of the smugglers, however, are British, Dutch, and German.

Among the smugglers recently caught include a man from Amsterdam who was found to have swallowed 91 packages of cocaine wrapped in condoms, which took a week to pass through his body. He later got six years in jail.

On 20 December, a 51-year-old German woman was stopped in Waterloo. Inside the lining of her suitcase officers found 4.5kg of heroin, worth about pounds 500,000, and the largest ever haul at the station. The narcotics are believed to be from Turkey and were on their way to one of the Turkish drug families in north London.

The street value of the drugs seizure by British customs officers based at Coquelles near Calais, have increased from pounds 7.7m in 1996 to at least pounds 15.1m this year. The number of commercial or large seizures rose from 16 to 27, pornography finds rose from 22 to 49 and firearms and illegal weapons went up from five to 11.

Heroin showed the biggest leap from 15kg to 68.5kg, cocaine rose from 4kg to 28kg, cannabis was 542kg last year, this year it was 1,400 kg, while the amount of ecstasy fell from 142kg to 28kg, although the 1996 total included one seizure of 141kg.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Renewables Grid / Power Systems Specialist

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Offshore Wind Package Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: T...

Subsea Cables Installation Project Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Subsea Cables Installation Project Manager

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices