AUSTRALIA will have a white Christmas - we are now the world's most profitable market for cocaine cartels.
A confidential Australian Federal Police report reveals a "generational shift" towards cocaine has pushed demand for the drug to unprecedented levels, with prices to match.
In the US a kilo of cocaine is worth about $35,000, but here the street price is a staggering $190,000 a kilo.
With international drug networks targeting Australia, cocaine seizures have skyrocketed since 2003, the internal AFP report says.
Top cops say demand is so strong year round that the traditional spike in shipments for the festive season is now not noticeable.
AFP Acting Deputy Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg said: "There is a belief that the Christmas-New Year period is where there is a spike in importations ... a white Christmas if you like. I don't think it's isolated to just that period," he said.
"Cocaine as a target crime type is a perennial issue."
The report's authors say: "Across the board in all types of drugs, not just cocaine, the price paid per kilo in Australia is considerably higher than the price paid per kilogram anywhere else in the world.
"As long as the Australian user market is that lucrative, the organised transnational crime syndicates will target us because there are higher profit margins available to them."
Between 2003 and 2006/7, cocaine accounted for about 5 per cent of drugs seized in Australia. By 2007/08 this had risen to 10 per cent. In 2008/09 it was 25 per cent.
The report was handed to AFP chiefs a week ago to help "evaluate the threat"' and allocate resources accordingly.
At the same time, Colombian authorities smashed a major cartel targeting Australia.
Intelligence from that operation found Australia was being used to launder significant amounts of money to drug-distribution enterprises in Europe and elsewhere.
The AFP report says there's a "generational shift" away from opiates such as heroin.
Amphetamine-based narcotics such as ice were still popular, it said, but the well-publicised risks had reduced the demand.
By comparison, cocaine is seen as a safe choice.
The AFP now runs a small armed operational team based in Bogota to help battle the Colombian cocaine trade.
Under a special arrangement sanctioned by the Colombian Government, six local police officers work under AFP orders to smash Aussie-bound shipments before they leave the country.
"They give us a fantastic operational capability in-country, directly under the control of our senior liaison officer there," said Acting Deputy Commissioner Quaedvlieg, confirming the existence of the squad.
It has busted postal-smuggling drug networks and made arrests.
December 14, 2009