Paris (AFP) - Criminal gangs are using fast-food couriers to deliver recreational drugs to people confined at home because of coronavirus lockdowns, policing agency Interpol said Thursday.
Cocaine, marijuana, ketamine and ecstasy are among the drugs being moved in pizza boxes or other takeaway containers in countries including Ireland, Malaysia, Spain and Britain, Interpol said in a statement.
The agency issued a "purple notice" to warn its 194 member agencies of "this new modus operandi" involving couriers using bikes, motorcycles or cars.
With drug buyers and their dealers under lockdown along with the rest of society in many countries, some drivers are using this time to make a quick buck, while in some cases dealers simply posed as couriers.
Others were unwitting mules.
"In one Malaysian case, a food delivery rider in the Gombak district of Kuala Lumpur contacted police and asked for his food package to be inspected after he became suspicious," Interpol said.
"The rider had been tasked with delivering a single order of Indian flatbread yet the parcel weighed approximately 11 kilogrammes (20 pounds)."
In Spain, seven people posing as delivery drivers were arrested in Alicante and Valencia after drugs were found concealed in the false bottoms of home delivery backpacks.
In Ireland, police found eight kilogrammes of cocaine and two handguns hidden in pizza boxes.
"Country-wide lockdowns have sharply increased demand for home delivered food and delivery drivers are a common sight on otherwise deserted streets," Interpol said.
This provides the perfect cover for home drug deliveries.
"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 agency's executive director of police services.