By Evie Andreou
POLICE believe they are on the tracks of an international drug trafficking gang after arresting a 28-year-old man from Romania on Thursday who was held at Larnaca airport after finding 4.3 kilos of cocaine in his luggage.
The man, who was remanded for eight days yesterday, arrived on a flight from Sao Paolo via Dubai. The drugs were found after a search by the police drug squad, YKAN.
Police believe that the suspect, who refuses to cooperate, is a Cyprus member of an international trafficking ring from Brazil and that the drugs were destined to be pushed in Cyprus.
The 28-year old faces charges for conspiracy to commit crime, illegal import of drugs and supply from another person, possession and possession with the aim to provide drugs to others in Cyprus and abroad between July 22 and August 7.
Police is about seek assistance from the international law enforcement agencies Interpol and Europol to track the suspect’s journey from Sao Paolo to Cyprus, as they search for the man’s associates on the island as well as the final recipients of the drugs. YKAN is reportedly investigating a specific lead based on some information.
In recent months, authorities have seized large quantities of drugs, and police said that this year there has been a substantial increase in drugs related cases.
“We can’t say for sure yet since we have to wait until the end of 2014, but up to today we have had far more arrests and cases concerning drugs than last year,” said YKAN chief Stelios Sergides.
The last few years police has seen a steady rise in drug related cases; from 851 in 2010, the number rose to 1032 cases in 2012 and a slight decrease in 2013 to 1001 cases.
“An increase in arrests means that there is increased activity in the market,” Sergides said and added that there are many factors that contribute to the rise, but that more drug imports also translate to increased demand.
Almost a third of last year’s cases were in Nicosia, with 300 cases out of the 1001. Limassol follows with 252 cases. Paphos, Larnaca and Famagusta are almost on the same level with 150, 140 and 146 cases, respectively.
Unfortunately, Sergides said, with a total of 378 cases, youth aged between 19 and 24 are in the lead, since they are by far the biggest age group involved in drug abuse, followed by 263 people in the 25-29 age group.
The most widely used drug in Cyprus is cannabis with statistics suggesting that this accounted for almost two thirds of last year’s cases, or 772 out of 1001. Demand for heroin seems to have decreased since from the 59 cases in 2010, the number has fallen to 10 cases in 2013. Cannabis resin (hashish) had also recorded a large decrease; from 104 in 2009, the number fell to 11 last year.
Sergides said that the police has always been active in the effort to track down drug traffickers and dealers and that the strategic goal is to arrest as many drug dealers as possible.
A police source also said that in the summer months there are more drug arrests because many tourists carry them, not realising that it is illegal to import them into Cyprus.