John Lee, a senior official of the United States Drugs Enforcement Agency, also warned that the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe were threatened by the powers of the drugs traffickers, who had already undermined the law and order and political systems of countries in South America and the Far East.
Mr Lee, addressing the International Police Exhibition and Conference at the Barbican in the City of London, also repeated warnings that Western European nations were facing the same cocaine problems that the US faced a decade ago.
He told the conference: 'The threat to democracy posed by drug trafficking is not limited to the Third World. Drug traffickers present a particular danger to newly free nations in Eastern Europe. The movement towards a market economy, expanded foriegn trade and convertible currencies are likely to provide new opportunities for international organised crime syndicates.'
Mr Lee added: 'Many Western European nations are facing a problem similar to the one the United States faced 10 years ago with cocaine. Massive quantities of drugs are flowing into Europe as the cartels expand their drug market. Last year, 16 tons of cocaine were seized in Western Europe. We estimate that perhaps as much as 200 tons of cocaine entered Europe undetected.'
Mr Lee's estimate is one of the few times an official has attempted to quantify the amount of undetected drugs entering Western Europe, which is now seen by the cartels as one cohesive market.
British police and customs officials have always been reluctant to speculate on such figures, beyond conceding that the amount seized is small in proportion.
In Britain last year, 1.1 tons of cocaine were seized; this years' figure has been easily surpassed following the single seizure of almost one tonne in April.Reuse content