The currently raging coronavirus pandemic has not only affected the stock market, but also hindered the smooth running of international organized criminal enterprises that smuggle drugs across international and state borders.
According to the international policing agency Interpol, criminal organizations are now using food delivery services to move recreational substances to clients isolated in their residences due to coronavirus lockdown regulations.
Reportedly, countries such as Ireland, Malaysia, Spain and Britain have seen the existence of criminal gangs using food delivery containers and pizza boxes to deliver an assortment of drugs including cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana and ketamine.
In Belgium, the lockdown measures have also seen the movement of drug businesses off the street owing to daily curfews.
Generally, instead of customers accessing their drug dealers at public spots such as parks and street alleys, most drug exchanges are now facilitated remotely. A buyer may order for drugs by online message, wire funds to make the payment, and the drugs would be delivered to their address.
As observed by various law enforcement agencies, food delivery has become a preferred guise for delivering the drugs and taking cash payments. This aspect holds truth in the face of a rapidly changed restaurant business environment where the closure of public food joints have advanced the demand for delivery services.
According to Interpol, the involvement of food delivery services in the drug supply chain happens in two ways – delivery workers may be complicit to drugs transportation or, in other cases, become unintended links to the activities of drug dealers.
This means that legitimate food delivery drivers may willingly help drug dealers to move products to client addresses at a fee while other delivery persons may do so unknowingly.
Otherwise, Interpol has observed that some drug dealers have sometimes chosen to falsely disguise themselves as the food delivery workers themselves.
A Number of Cases
In Malaysia, a food delivery worker in the Gombak district of the country’s capital approached law enforcement, requesting that the police inspect the food package that he was meant to deliver. The food delivery rider’s suspicion came about after he realized that the package of “a single order of Indian flatbread” he was tasked to move weighed approximately 11kg.
In Ireland, law enforcement agents came across pizza boxes that that held 8kg of cocaine and two firearms.
In Spain, people posing as food delivery workers were apprehended in Alicante and Valencia after the police discovered drugs that were hidden in the false bottoms of home delivery rucksacks.
Throughout various locations across the world, Interpol has noted a sharp increase in sightings of food delivery drivers on streets that would be, expectedly, empty. The increase in demand for food delivery services have in turn created an ideal cover for home deliveries of banned and controlled substances.
Other Forms of Criminal Adaptation to the Pandemic
A number of police forces have noted that some drug dealers are taking great lengths to maintain their businesses. Some media reports have highlighted allegations of drug dealers disguising themselves as fitness enthusiasts and runners that would use the trick to move drugs across community borders.
In fact, it has been reported that some of these drug dealers have crafted cunning ways to circumvent law enforcement interference by “carrying boxes of groceries for their gran” just in case they get stopped by police.
As criminal networks strive to adjust to the changing global dynamic amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, Interpol has issued purple notices in a bid to enlighten law enforcement agencies in the failures and successes of the activities that seek to maintain law and order in these uncertain times.
Importantly, the international police body acknowledged that an understanding of the shifting criminal patterns is essential towards arresting the ever-growing international criminal enterprise.