‘Drug traffickers targeting Island as travel is resuming’

POLICE and Customs are braced for a surge in drug importations as organised crime gangs try to exploit renewed travel links to Jersey following the easing of Covid restrictions.

Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30836395)
Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30836395)

Two people are in custody after border officials intercepted what they described as two ‘significant’ hauls of class A drugs.

The separate cases came days after the return of the ‘traffic-light’ system which allows easier travel in and out of the Island, and which led to a rise in the number of scheduled flights.

In a statement, Customs said that the seizures ‘clearly demonstrate that drug traffickers are targeting the Island now that travel restrictions have been eased’.

And both Customs and the States police have said that they expect smuggling plots to increase as flights and sailings continue to increase over the coming weeks.

Gangs were forced to abandon their usual smuggling routes when travel restrictions were introduced, and instead focused on shipping drugs to Jersey through the post.

About £100,000 worth of illegal substances were intercepted at postal headquarters during the first three months of the year.

The States police has been working closely with Customs since re-establishing its drugs squad in January following an absence of nine years.

The squad consists of eight officers whose remit is to handle major drug-related investigations and lead Operation Shark – an initiative launched in

February 2020 to crack down on drug-dealing following the death of a teenager who had taken MDMA.

A States police spokesperson said: ‘It is anticipated that, as borders open and travel recommences, organised criminals will take the opportunity to import controlled drugs through the ports.

‘Organised crime groups will continue to target the Island due to the potential profit they can make from importing controlled drugs.

‘Focusing on organised criminals importing drugs into the Island is one of the terms of

reference for the drugs squad.

‘While the borders were closed, the main importation method was through the post.’

Mark Cockerham, the head of service at Customs, said that while air and sea routes were significantly cut by Covid travel restrictions, staff had focused their attention on postal shipments, and had made 73 seizures in the first quarter of this year.

‘While there has been reduced border movement due to Covid-19 restrictions, we have seen a diversion and associated increase in the postal importations of drugs

and there have been a number of seizures and arrests in relation to this,’ he said.

‘Now, as more normal activity resumes at the borders both locally and in the UK, some will perceive this as potential to exploit commercial travel routes for smuggling activity.’

He added: ‘JCIS are fully alive to this threat and, while there have been two seizures in the past week, it is too soon to see exactly what the long-term impact is likely to be.

‘Certainly we will be working on intelligence with the States of Jersey Police and also off-Island enforcement agencies to target those who see this as an “opportunity” to import drugs.’

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