Drug mules find 'ingenious' ways to beat the law

Advanced techniques, and an increasing number of drugs couriers are being used by dealers to flood illegal substances on to Scotland's streets.

Smugglers have abandoned bulk shipments, where drugs were hidden in containers with food and other goods, known as "coffin concealments", and switched to "little and often"? methods in an attempt to beat police and customs.

Criminals are also using more sophisticated methods, including concealing cocaine in planks of wood, sealing shipments in tombstones, impregnating clothing and, more recently, packaging it in sachets of jam from abroad.

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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 the contraband difficult to spot in X-rays.

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 resulted in officers in Scotland for the first time discovering cocaine paste in a package sealed in a sachet of jam.

Mr Simpson, who is a civilian worker for the SCDEA but was previously a police officer with Strathclyde Police for 32 years, 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 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.

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"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 and there has been an increase of concealments built into machinery.

"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," Mr Simpson added.

He also said officers had regularly seen some cocaine where the purity was as low as 1 or 2 per cent in Scotland, below the 5 per cent average for the UK and lower than a purity of around 20 per cent 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, used to "cut" cocaine was being imported inm to UK at a "fierce rate of knots".

During a recent visit to Colombia, Mr Simpson said scientists explained anything could be either made from cocaine or impregnated with cocaine. Mr Simpson said he was also shown coffee beans which were cocaine painted brown.