How Illegal Drugs Sustain Organised Crime in the EU

How Illegal Drugs Sustain Organised Crime in the EU

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Drug markets remain the largest criminal markets in the EU. More than one third of the criminal groups active in the EU are involved in the production, trafficking or distribution of various types of drugs.The trade in illicit drugs generates multi-billion euro profits for the groups involved in this criminal activity. The EU retail drug market is estimated to be worth at least EUR 24 billion a year.3 The immense profits generated from the trade in drugs fund various other criminal activities allowing OCGs to thrive and develop their criminal enterprises at the expense of the health, prosperity and security of EU citizens.

OCGs involved in drug trafficking rely heavily on corruption to facilitate their trafficking activities. They also make use of fraudulent documents such as fake import or company registration certificates to import illicit drugs among legal goods, to procure (pre-)precursors and purchase equipment used as part of production processes.


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Albania remains the main source of herbal cannabis trafficked to the EU. The main source of cannabis resin consumed in the EU is Morocco from where it is trafficked to the EU primarily by sea and road transport. Cannabis resin originating from Morocco is increasingly smuggled to the EU across the Mediterranean Sea departing from Libya.
Using front companies and middlemen, some OCGs operate their own cargo vessels or even small fleets of cargo vessels transporting multi-tonne shipments of cannabis. Cannabis resinis trafficked to the EU in containers concealed among legal goods.