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The Channel tunnel is the fastest growing route for drug trafficking, unpublished figures reveal.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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn