We spoke to some dealers who aren't happy at all.
Photo by Giorgi Nieberidze
If there's one thing English people love more than cocaine, it's football. However, fans up and down the country might have a tough time getting a buzz on during the World Cup, due to an unprecedented coke drought. Traditionally, the tournament is a boomtime for dealers, and you'd expect a combination of sunny weather and games that potentially won't finish until 3AM to fuel demand among all-day drinkers who don't want to fall asleep in public. But a string of international and domestic drug busts has led to a shortage just as the tournament gets underway, with North and the Midlands hardest hit. All over the country, prices are soaring and purity levels plummeting.
Low-level drug-dealers are feeling the pinch. K, a twenty-something cocaine dealer who works up in Birmingham, told me, "I have not known a drought like this ever. There is just nothing about. We started shorting the amounts and cutting what we had left a couple of weeks back but now we can't even get anything to do that. The World Cup and European Championships are usually mental for demand and as the games start late at night, I should be caning it for the next month.
"The England-Italy game is a 11PM Saturday kick-off, so if it's a sunny day people will start early and I should be getting repeat sales throughout the evening into the morning – and if we win, even more for the celebrating afterwards."
The dealer, who normally sells five to seven ounces of cocaine a week in grams costing £50, added, "My phone has been red hot from punters and dealers wanting coke for the weekend but I and every other dealer I know can't lay our hands on any. We keep on being told to wait but it is not looking good for this weekend.
"Then when everyone gets paid at the end of the month there will be even more madder sessions that people will want coke for – it is unthinkable the drought will still be going on then."
And K reckons that the lack of cocaine on the streets will spell trouble for the police and publicans. "People rely on coke to get them through all-dayers and nighters, people use it every week so take that away and people are going to be plastered-drunk. The amount of fights will be insane and if England lose then I bet a few places will get smashed up – it's standard."
Further up the food chain, a Staffordshire 40-something-year-old drug dealer, who I’ll call Danny, is also frantically trying to lay his lands on coke. Danny sells nothing below a kilo. He told me, "It’s becoming like a crisis, man. The boat they caught coming in from Colombia last month has fucked everything up."
Danny began selling weed in the 90s and progressed to cocaine eight years ago after several other dealers were jailed. "I didn't think one shipment could cause such a shit storm but that is the reason we are being told," he fretted. "I've got contacts who I deal with and trust, from up north to down south, and everyone is saying the same thing."
On Friday the 9th of May, a £30m shipment of cocaine bound for the cisterns of England was seized from a ship anchored off the Scottish town of Largs. The Cape Maria had set sail from Colombia the previous month carrying a cargo of coal, but also had 108kg (240lbs) stashed away in the rudder area. The crew are believed to have been totally oblivious to their contraband cargo.
In a joint operation the Scottish Police, Border Force agents, the National Crime Agency and Dutch authorities arrested three Dutch nationals in the nearby Seamill Hydro Hotel in Ayrshire. Diving equipment, a rigid inflatable boat and an underwater “scooter” were also recovered from the hotel. The three Dutch guys appeared at Leeds Magistrates’ Court the following week and were remanded in custody. They were believed to have arrived in Ayrshire posing as tourists.
The National Crime Agency estimate 25-30 tons of cocaine is smuggled into the UK every year. A spokesman for the NCA said: "The UK is one of Europe’s largest and most profitable markets. Traditionally, most of the cocaine destined for Europe, including the UK, has crossed the Atlantic by ship and entered via Spain. The most significant method currently used to smuggle bulk amounts is in maritime container ships arriving in European hub ports, such as Antwerp and Rotterdam, before being moved into the UK."
The UK's coke supply has also been hit by a massive bust in April, one of the biggest cocaine seizures ever made by the Colombian authorities. Seven tons of cocaine, with a street value of over $250 million, was bound for Rotterdam but discovered in 6,900 packages hidden among pineapple preserves.The bust took the amount of cocaine discovered by the Colombian authorities to over 25 tons in this year alone – already making 2014 one of the best years for busts ever.
Back in Staffordshire, Danny is counting the cost and is concerned about the ramifications of the drought. He said, "This business is dangerous enough and a drought like this is bad news for everyone, from the dealers to the users. There is a race against time to get coke in place for the World Cup and shite synthetic stuff will end up being passed off as coke. The big winners will be the Albanians, who already have a big enough chunk of the market – they will fill the gap with proper crap."
He added, "Dealers will also have to deal with new contacts which always brings rip-offs, robberies, violence and feuds. The police might think they are winning because there is a temporary drought but they have no idea of the consequences on the street."
He added: "No one wants to see pissed-up idiots fighting everywhere, it's better for everyone if all these football fans can just have a beer and a line and enjoy the World Cup like they have been planning to all year."
More on the World Cup: