Mail-Order Cocaine Floods Russia

By Gabrielle Wuhl 07/30/12

Drug traffickers use international postal systems to make sophisticated deliveries.

Not so fast. Photo via

Why trouble to meet up with a dealer when you can get your drugs in the mail? That's what many of Russia's estimated 2.5 million drug addicts are apparently thinking—and a burgeoning online trade seems to have encouraged traffickers to utilize international postal systems. Russia's top drug detective, Sergei Tikhonenko, acknowledges the "trend towards a stable growth in cocaine deliveries using mail services" such as DHL, FedEX, TNT Express and UPS—describing it as an "enormous headache." He says the coke is typically sent from Latin America and Asia to Frankfurt for checks before entering Russia. He's not throwing Germany under the bus, though: "The Germans work very systematically not only with correspondence intended for their domestic market, but also with all mail that is transited through Germany." According to Russian officials, dealers have been increasing the quantity and safety of their deliveries with the help of modern chemical techniques. "You can dilute cocaine with any liquid—oil, glue, caulk, or alcoholic drinks," explains Tikhonenko. He once came across a kilogram of cocaine concealed in a bottle of whisky—"its weight changed, but the volume [of liquid] remained the same." He adds that delivering the drug in bricks is now seen as “primitive,” and that “There were cases when drug dealers hid large ore cargoes, in frozen fish, fruit puree and concentrates…[they used] huge 200-liter barrels full of vacuum packs which cannot be inspected using the equipment that we possess.” Despite all this, cocaine is seen as the the lesser of two evils for Russia, which suffers 30,000-40,000 of the world's estimated 200,000 drug-related deaths each year: according to government stats, 90% of Russian addicts use heroin trafficked from Afghanistan. But cocaine-by-mail is an issue that authorities intend to fight.

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