EU Finds Growing Link Between Drug Trafficking and Terrorism

Illicit drug production and trafficking represents a key threat to the internal security of the European Union, says director of police agency Europol.

Europol Director Rob Wainwright in The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 22, 2016.

DPA -- There is an increasing link between drug trafficking and other crimes, including terrorism, the European Union's drugs monitoring agency warned Tuesday in its annual report.

The warning comes two weeks after suicide bombing attacks in Brussels that left more than 30 dead. Yet the fight against terrorism was already high on the EU's agenda, following attacks in Paris in November that claimed 130 lives.

Organized crime groups involved in the drug market are diversifying their activities, engaging in other forms of criminality, including terrorism, and forming cross-border alliances, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said in its report.

"Illicit drug production and trafficking remains one of the largest and most innovative criminal markets in Europe," said Rob Wainwright, the director of EU police agency Europol.

"As it grows more complex and becomes entwined with other forms of crime, and even terrorism, it represents a key threat to the internal security of the EU," he added.

Terrorist organizations are using involvement in the drug trade to fund their activities, although it appears not to be their main source of funding, the report said.

"It appears that many of those involved in these activities, often recently radicalized young people, may have a history of low-level criminality, including drug use or involvement in the drug market, and exploit their criminal links to conduct their terrorist activities in a range of ways," the authors wrote.

The report also found that new Internet technologies such as Bitcoin and other cyber-currencies were creating new opportunities for online drug supply, while legitimate transport infrastructures such as shipping containers continue to be exploited for the drugs trade.

Europeans spent an estimated minimum of 24 billion euros (27.3 billion dollars) on illicit drugs in 2015, the report said, making it one of the main profit-generating activities for organized criminals in Europe.