Algeria major player in trafficking of cocaine

Besides the current state of limbo — as Algeria waits for confirmation about whether the ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will run for a fifth term in the April election — the country has been distracted by a new mystery. The legal case concerning the 701 kg of cocaine that was seized in Oran port in May 2018 has still not been resolved and now a further 300 kg of cocaine washed up on the coast near Skikda at the end of January, reports Menas Associates.

The drugs were packed into 11 hermetically-sealed backpacks attached to each other. Packages of narcotics thrown overboard are normally tagged with a GPS chip enabling them to be tracked and recovered later. However — to the surprise of the coastguards who discovered the bags, and the gendarmes who have taken over the investigation — no such chips were found.

Another mystery is that the cocaine was wrapped in red, white and blue coloured material, described as ‘flags’. Some descriptions have described the material as ‘Russian flags’, giving rise to an investigation into which Russian ships were close to Skikda at the. The discovery of the cocaine, and the ‘Russian flags’, is a cause for entertainment in both the social and mainstream media, with one report describing Algeria as the ‘cocaine coast’.

The reality, however, is that Algeria has a very limited domestic cocaine market and this latest consignment — like the earlier one seized in Oran — was probably destined for Europe and the Middle East.

Algeria has been a major player in the trafficking of cocaine from Latin America to Europe since 2006. This traffic was initially, and still is, shipped by ship or plane from South America into West Africa with Mali as a major hub. Criminal networks then traffic the cocaine from Mali to Algeria’s Mediterranean ports.

This trans-Saharan trafficking has, however, been made more difficult by the current war in the Sahel and the use of surveillance drones in the region. This has encouraged the drug barons to develop an alternative shipping route from Latin America to Algeria’s coast.

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