A worldwide police force has issued an alert warning that criminal organizations are using food delivery services to transport drugs as countries remain locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), the Lyon, France-based global law enforcement agency, said suspects have been arrested delivering cocaine, marijuana, ketamine and ecstasy by bicycle, motorcycle and car in Ireland, Malaysia, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The Interpol issued a “purple notice” to its 194 member countries “to provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.”
None of the delivery services were named, but drivers may be involved or unwitting links or "mules" in moving drugs, Interpol said in the statement.
“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, the organization’s executive director of police services.
Earlier this month, the Spanish National Police identified and arrested seven suspects dressed as food delivery drivers in Alicante and Valencia. They were caught delivering drugs concealed inside a false bottom of home delivery backpacks.
In Ireland, Gardai officers recovered 18 pounds of cocaine and two handguns hidden in pizza boxes, the law enforcement agency said.
Kavanagh praised Spain and other nations, which have shared policing information with Interpol to ensure that law enforcement is not only kept up-to-date on emerging crime threats, but is also enabled to deal with it.
“In order to maintain national security, the role of the Spanish police is to provide constant support to all initiatives [that] respond to new security challenges,” said Carlos Vázquez Ara, commissioner of the Spanish National Police. “The Interpol 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.”
Cases brought to the agency’s attention have included suspects disguised as food delivery drivers, while there have been other instances of legitimate food drivers delivering drugs on behalf of criminal organizations in exchange for cash.