Police Find Drug Smugglers New Methods

Drug smugglers trying to import illegal substances into Scotland have started trying out new methods to beat police including hiding Class A's in planks of wood.

Crooks have moved away from bulk shipments, where drugs were hidden in containers with food and other goods, known as "coffin concealments'', to ``little and often'' amounts in an attempt to evade the police.

They are also using more sophisticated methods, including inserting cocaine into planks of wood, sealing it in a tombstone, injecting it into clothing and, more recently, packaging it in sachets of jam from abroad.

Some drug mules are also swallowing liquid cocaine in bags, instead of cocaine packed into pellets, which form into the shape of the intestine, making it difficult to spot by x-ray.

In his first interview on drug concealment, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency's (SCDEA) Kenny Simpson said: "That's an example of how sophisticated they are. They move with the times. We've seen everything. We've seen all sorts.

There has been an increase in couriers who internally conceal the drug."

Operation Bakus was the first time officers in Scotland had seen cocaine paste in a package amongst jam sealed in a sache.

Mr Simpson, who is a civilian worker for the SCDEA but was also a police officer with Strathclyde Police for 32 years, with 21 years in the drugs squad, said, "It felt like a package of jam. It weighed the same as a package of jam. When you squished it about there was nothing to suggest there was anything in it.

So you really had to probe to find out that there was actually cocaine inside it. That's just one example of how ingenious they are."

Mr Simpson, a statement of opinion manager for the SCDEA, said cocaine dealers in Scotland had developed skills in adulterating the drug, maximising profit but reducing the purity.

He said, "It changes all the time. You can't put drug trends and the drug trafficking business into boxes. The drug business is like any other business. You've got people who organise it, you've got people who are hands on. You've got the people who handle the drugs."

He said criminals were only limited by their imaginations and go to "extreme lengths'' to disguise drugs when it came to smuggling illegal substances into and around Scotland.

Vehicles have also been rebuilt around a stash of drugs to try and get them into Scotland and there has been an increase of concealments built into motors.

Mr Simpson added, "The value of the drugs is so high that it doesn't make sense to have a single route, use it all the time and use the same people, because that leaves you vulnerable."

He also said officers had regularly seen some cocaine where the purity was as low as 1% or 2% in Scotland, below the average of 5% for the country and lower than a purity of around 20% for England and Wales.

The level of purity is also contributing to drug users switching to buying ecstasy, which has seen an increase in use.

He also said Benzocaine, which can be mixed with the cocaine to dilute the purity, was being brought in to the UK at a "fierce rate of knots''.

During a recent visit to Colombia, Mr Simpson said scientists drew his attention that anything now could be either made from cocaine or impregnated with cocaine.

Mr Simpson said he was also shown brown coffee beans that had been made from cocaine painted brown.

He said, "Our business is serious and organised crime.

My only appeal would be, to members of the public, is do not be deterred from picking up the phone. It can be in confidence with Crimestoppers.

Intelligence is the lifeblood of our organisation. We welcome it. We go to great lengths to protect it.

We encourage people to come forward."

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime World Drug Report 2011, released on Thursday, said Scotland had one of the highest levels of adults using cocaine in Europe and the UK.

The report said the "annual prevalence of use'' among the population aged 16 to 64 in Scotland was estimated at 3.9% in 2009.