A new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reveals criminal groups in Brazil are using Bole International Airport as a transit route to smuggle cocaine from Africa to Western and Central Europe and other consumer markets.
The report, dubbed “The Global Report on Cocaine 2023,” looked at the creation of fresh cocaine trafficking hubs around the world, naming Ethiopia as one of the important transit zones for the drug.
Of the 156 documented seizures of outbound consignments made in Brazil with a known destination in Africa, 64 were destined for Ethiopia, more than any other country, and all were made at Brazilian airports, according to the report.
“Some of these may have been in transit to intermediate destinations such as Nigeria. However, the airports of Ethiopia, alongside those of Kenya, also play an important role in cocaine trafficking from Africa towards Western, Central Europe, and other consumer markets,” the report reads.
Bole International Airport is alleged to have been targeted by Brazilian criminal groups as a “stopover” en route to Europe, according to the same source.
“The potential for the cocaine market to expand in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality, said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly during the report’s launch.
Mexican criminal gangs are the most powerful operators in the global cocaine market, but they are mostly active in North America, mainly the United States. Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), a Brazilian criminal enterprise, has expanded its operations in South America, Africa, and Europe.
Anecdotal information suggests that Nigerian criminal networks are at the forefront of smuggling activities across Africa, including Ethiopia, which they usually use as a transit point to access the European market.
In response to questions from legislators last Monday, Zelalem Mengiste, deputy commissioner of the Federal Police Commission, disclosed that 83 kg of cocaine, 9.7 kg of cannabis, and 9.2 kg of opium were seized while being smuggled into the country. 16 foreign citizens have been detained in connection with this, according to him.
“The smuggled drug is worth billions of birr. And locals and foreign citizens have participated in the smuggling process, and they have been apprehended with the effort of law enforcement agencies,” said Zelalem.
The global production of cocaine has increased dramatically over the past two years, despite the fact that the cocaine market was contracting throughout the COVID-19 era. According to the World Report on Cocaine 2023, coca cultivation increased by 35 percent from 2020 to 2021, a record high and the highest year-on-year increase since 2016.