On 19 & 20 September, colleagues from the Serious and Organised Crime Business Area hosted a Conference on Cocaine Extraction-Conversion Laboratories in the EU, as a fairly large number of illicit cocaine facilities have been found in the EU in recent years.
These laboratories are used to remove the cocaine from other materials in which it has been incorporated—and therefore concealed—before exportation to Europe. Cocaine base, and more frequently HCl, may be incorporated into a range of materials including beeswax, fertiliser, various types of plastic, clothing, herbs, liquids, guano and upholstery. The incorporation process may be fairly simple, for instance by soaking pieces of clothing in a mixture of cocaine and water. But it can also be more complex, requiring a chemical process, for example to incorporate cocaine HCl (hydrochloride) within plastic. In this case, a reverse chemical process will be required to extract the cocaine from the plastic. After secondary extraction, the cocaine can then be adulterated with different cutting agents and pressed into the form of traditional cocaine bricks embossed with logos, probably to convince buyers that they are purchasing original high-purity cocaine.
Delegates from 24 EU Member States plus Colombia attended the conference at which presentations and training were provided by Focal Point (FP) Cola, the Dutch Police and the UK’s Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), experts.
Last week’s conference at Europol facilitated the identification of the problem, increased awareness, suggested possible approaches and highlighted recent developments with the final goal of further enhancing law enforcement authorities' responses. The value of using a multidisciplinary approach to tackle this problem which impacts the whole EU, was also underlined.
Participants at the conference also learned about a kit/tool developed by the Dutch Authorities that can detect cocaine incorporated or bonded into a wide range of carrier materials, which cannot be detected by regular tests or drugs dogs.