As highlighted in the previous EU drug markets report, the drug market is highly adaptable and innovative. The drug market is becoming increasingly diversified and the overlap with other types of criminal activity and the legal economy also appears to be expanding, although this may be due in part to an increased recognition of the potential for it to occur. Consideration of the factors that influence or drive these changes can help the design of new interventions to tackle these issues.
OCGs are increasingly flexible, engaging in multiple forms of criminality. Criminals capitalise on new opportunities in order to generate profit, especially when they are able to use existing infrastructures, personnel and contacts. This is particularly true for groups involved in the transportation and distribution of illicit commodities. For example, a group trafficking cannabis resin from Morocco to the Iberian Peninsula can easily use the same people, routes and means of transport to also traffic cocaine transiting West Africa. OCGs will also expand their enterprises into other supporting or associated activities. ‘Crime as a service’ approaches are developing. For instance, some OCGs specialise in maritime smuggling or in money laundering, others in disposing of the waste from synthetic drugs manufacturing, while some groups are providers of security services for major drug deals.
Poly-drug trafficking is a common approach chosen by OCGs active in the EU. OCGs involved in the distribution of drugs in the EU typically traffic various types of drugs depending on their price, demand and availability. In addition, OCGs are becoming increasingly multinational in their membership. Some are dominated by one nationality, others by two or more. Some large criminal networks have members of more than 60 nationalities. Whilst acknowledging this, the description of OCGs in this report points out certain nationalities that are dominant players within the networks.