Cocaine and 'party' drug use soaring again as improving economy sends wealth rising

There has been a resurgence in demand for “party” drugs in Ireland as the economy has improved, a new report has warned.

The Cross Border Organised Crime Threat Assessment report for 2018 says cocaine use is nearing its 2007 peak, and crack cocaine and prescription drug abuse will require more focus from gardaí and the PSNI.

The report, which gives an insight into organised criminal activity, says cocaine is second only to cannabis in its attractiveness for gangs.

The drug, which retails at approximately €70 per gram, is in constant demand across a wide variety of areas from urban centres to rural villages, the report notes.

“It is as yet unclear if the consumption of cocaine has returned to its 2007 peak and stabilised, but anecdotal evidence suggests that such a return is likely to occur soon if that has not already happened,” it states.

“In a similar vein, MDMA and related drugs have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years resulting from the economic recovery.”

Meanwhile, while “still not a drug of national scale,” the report notes crack cocaine will require increasing attention into the future.

It says that “while the more traditional drug importation routes remain in place on both sides of the Border, the advent of the ‘dark net’ as well as the development of numerous, bespoke, psychoactive substances and the abuse of prescription medications” has led to significant diversification in both drug abuse and organised crime groups activity.

The report was released as the 16th annual cross-border organised crime conference opened yesterday at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, Co Down.

The conference brings together representatives from government departments, An Garda, the PSNI, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the National Crime Agency, HM Revenue and Customs and Revenue Commissioners.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who attended the meeting, said he was committed to ensuring very close North-South co-operation on criminal justice matters.

“I am keenly aware of the threat posed by criminals who seek to exploit the Border,” he said.

Among the issues highlighted in the report is the use of “mules” by criminals to launder money.

This involves a person’s bank account being used to receive monies which have resulted from a criminal act.

The stolen money is then transferred into the “mule” account where it is withdrawn and transferred back to the criminal, with a fee being paid in most cases to the account holder.

The report also warns the “dark web” is likely to see an increase in firearms availability for use by criminals.

The gardaí and PSNI said issues such as human trafficking will remain at the top of their agenda. The report notes “the exploitation of human beings poses significant societal and law enforcement challenges in both jurisdictions”.

This year, Ireland has seen a larger proportion of human trafficking cases, involving trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation, which is “of concern”, particularly in certain industries, with the fishing industry being especially susceptible.

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