Reykjavík’s Cocaine Underworld Reawakens - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Reykjavík’s Cocaine Underworld Reawakens

Reykjavík’s Cocaine Underworld Reawakens

Published August 28, 2017

Zoë Vala Sands
Photo by
From Scarface

So far this year, customs agents at Keflavík International Airport have intercepted 20.7 kg of cocaine coming into Iceland, which is more cocaine than has been seized in the past four years total. The contraband is worth over half a billion ISK (4 million€). The police has also stopped 1.95 L of liquid cocaine, in the first instance of liquid cocaine ever being smuggled into Iceland. As of today, 20 legal cases are being prosecuted.

Rich man’s drug

“The smuggling of cocaine seems to correlate with the country’s economic prosperity,” says Friðrik Smári Björgvinsson, Chief of Police in the capital region. The amount of cocaine caught by customs peaked at 12,840 kg in 2006, when Iceland’s GDP was 1.8 trillion ISK (14.46 billion €). But after the 2008 economic crash, the numbers dropped to a low of 1,736 kg in 2014. In 2016, Iceland’s GDP had bounced back to 2.1 trillion ISK (17.02 billion €) and now the cocaine just keeps flowing.

“Sometimes the drugs would be attached under the ship, and divers would fetch them once they arrived in Iceland”

Friðrik suspects that as Icelanders have grown richer, “there has been an increase in consumption of cocaine.”He also believes that cocaine is “possibly coming instead of other drugs, such as amphetamine”. Cocaine truly is a rich man’s drug in Iceland— a gram of cocaine generally sells for 18,000 ISK (143€), whereas a gram of amphetamine sells for 5,000 ISK (40€), according to Icelandic drug-selling Facebook groups.

Fourth amphetamine capital of Europe

Friðrik points out that the significant increase in findings of cocaine could also be explained by the police department’s high state of alertness due to a suspected rise in the production of amphetamines in Iceland. Reykjavík was listed as the 4th amphetamine capital of Europe, according to a 2016 report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drugs Addiction

Always finding new ways to smuggle

When asked whether he thinks customs could improve their search methods, Friðrik says that it’s a possibility, but, “at this stage answering such questions is mostly a guessing game.” Renowned journalist Reynir Traustason is more pessimistic: “I doubt it. I don’t think there’s much customs can do. People are always finding new ways to smuggle.” Reynir is the author of Skuggabörn (2006), an investigative work that examines Iceland’s drug culture from within.

“It is safe to interpret a record high interception of cocaine as an indicator of the growth of Iceland’s much larger underground drug problem.”

Sea route popular

The reported 20.7 kg of cocaine was found at the airport, which suggests that none of the smuggling was occurring via shipping on sea routes. But Reynir says, “When I was doing my research, much more [drugs were] coming in with foreign ships than by plane. That was considered the best way to do it. Sometimes the drugs would be attached under the ship, and divers would fetch it once it arrived in Iceland.”

Reports from the Society of Alcoholism and Addiction suggest that this year’s numbers of cocaine addicted patients correlates with the alleged increase in cocaine in Iceland. Reynir emphasizes the importance of “educating our young people” in the face of such information. For however much we may still be operating within a guessing game about the actual amount of cocaine in Iceland, it is safe to assume that a record in interception of the drug by police is a good indicator of the growth of Iceland’s much larger underground drug scene.

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