The international policing agency Interpol has said that criminal gangs are using fast food couriers to deliver recreational drugs to people confined at home because of the coronavirus lockdowns. Cocaine, cannabis, ketamine and ecstasy are among the drugs being moved in pizza boxes or other takeaway containers in countries including the UK, Ireland, Malaysia and Spain.
Interpol has now issued a ‘Purple Notice’ to warn its 194 member agencies of “this new modus operandi” involving couriers using bikes, motorcycles and cars.
“The Purple Notice shares knowledge about emerging modus operandi with police forces all around the world, so that both preventive and proactive measures can be taken against criminals who take advantage of this health crisis,” said Carlos A. Vázquez Ara, Principal Commissioner of the Spanish National Police.
Several police forces in the UK have reported dealers dressing up in supermarket and parcel delivery worker uniforms in order to disguise themselves as they make drop-offs on street corners and in people’s homes. Other dealers dress up as fast food delivery motorcyclists and even nurses in order to avoid being questioned. Because of the increased attention private car users are getting from the police, some dealers are using taxi drivers, who are allowed to operate on lockdown, to deliver packages to people’s homes.
Couriers provide the perfect cover
Some legitimate food delivery drivers knowingly and willingly deliver drugs on behalf of criminal organisations for financial gain. In other cases, the couriers are unwitting mules.
In one Malaysian case, a food delivery rider in the Gombak district of Kuala Lumpur contacted police and asked for his food package to be inspected after he became suspicious. The rider had been tasked with delivering a single order of Indian flatbread, yet the parcel weighed approximately 11kg.
In Ireland, police found 8kg of cocaine and two handguns hidden inside pizza boxes. In Spain, seven people posing as delivery drivers were arrested in Alicante and Valencia after drugs were found concealed in the false bottoms of home delivery backpacks.
The fact is that country-wide lockdowns have sharply increased demand for home-delivered food and delivery drivers are a common sight on otherwise deserted streets, said Interpol. This provides the perfect cover for home drug deliveries.
“As criminals continue to adapt their activities to a world upended by Covid-19, Interpol’s purple notices are essential tools in enabling police around the world to learn from each other’s successes and address shifting crime patterns”, said Stephen Kavanagh, Interpol’s Executive Director of Police Services.
“It is thanks to Spain, and other countries which are sharing vital policing information via Interpol that we can ensure law enforcement worldwide is not only kept up-to-date on emerging crime threats but enabled to deal with them”, added Mr Kavanagh.
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