The international policing agency Interpol has issued a ‘Purple Notice’ warning to its 194 member agencies informing them that criminal gangs are using fast food couriers to deliver recreational drugs to people confined at home during the coronavirus lockdowns. Cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and ketamine are among the drugs being moved in pizza boxes or other takeaway containers in countries including Ireland, the UK, Malaysia and Spain.

“The Purple Notice shares knowledge about emerging modus operandi with police forces all around the world, so that both preventive and proactive measures can be taken against criminals who take advantage of this health crisis,” said Carlos A. Vázquez Ara, Principal Commissioner of the Spanish National Police.

According to Interpol, some legitimate food delivery drivers knowingly and willingly deliver drugs on behalf of criminal organisations for financial gain. In other cases, the couriers are unwitting mules.

In one case in Ireland, police found 8kg of cocaine and two handguns hidden inside pizza boxes. In Malaysia, a food delivery rider in the Gombak district of Kuala Lumpur contacted police and asked for his food package to be inspected after he became suspicious. The rider had been tasked with delivering a single order of Indian flatbread and yet the parcel weighed approximately 11kg. In Spain, seven people posing as delivery drivers were arrested after drugs were found concealed in the false bottoms of home delivery backpacks.

Couriers offer the perfect cover

Country-wide lockdowns have sharply increased demand for home-delivered food and delivery drivers are a common sight on otherwise deserted streets, said Interpol. This provides the perfect cover for home drug deliveries.

“As criminals continue to adapt their activities to a world upended by Covid-19, Interpol’s purple notices are essential tools in enabling police around the world to learn from each other’s successes and address shifting crime patterns”, said Stephen Kavanagh, Interpol’s Executive Director of Police Services.

Mr Kavanagh thanked Spain and other countries for sharing this vital policing information via Interpol to ensure that law enforcement worldwide is kept up-to-date. Such information on emerging crime threats will also better enable us to deal with them, he said.

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