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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 05:30 GMT
Swabs tackle Jamaica drug mules
Cocaine from Jamaica
Much of Britain's cocaine comes from Jamaica
New tactics in the battle to stop Jamaican cocaine smugglers entering the UK are helping to secure rocketing seizures in the Caribbean country.

Joint efforts by the British and Jamaican authorities include swabs being used to detect minute traces of cocaine on the skin of drug mules before they board flights to the UK.

On some flights earlier this year, it was estimated as many as 10% of passengers from Jamaica were drug mules, people who had swallowed bags of cocaine usually at the behest of gangsters.

A roadblock in Jamaica
Jamaican gangsters set up the shipments
The Jamaican authorities said as much as 30kg (66lb) of cocaine was being smuggled on every flight.

But figures released by Customs and Excise on Thursday show the new detection methods appear to be deterring the traffickers.

Cocaine swallowers can carry half a kilo of the drug in their stomachs wrapped in up to 100 packets.

Dealers in Jamaica are happy to flood aircraft with couriers on the basis that if some are caught, others will evade detection.

But after four months of the swabs and other new technology, the number of drug mules getting through on this smuggling route is estimated to have dropped by a third.

Poor communities

Seizures of cocaine have gone up 12-fold in Jamaica and dropped by two thirds in the UK.

The drug mules are often women from poor communities desperate for money and seen as dispensible by the traffickers.

Seven died last year when the bags they were carrying in their stomachs burst.

The proliferation of the trade between Jamaica and the UK has been blamed for a series of violent crimes and shootings in Britain, particularly in London and Manchester.

See also:

10 Aug 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
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