British women's cocaine arrest underlines Ibiza drug threat
Melissa Reid and Michaella Connolly may have been recruited as 'mules' by island's drug gangs
THE plight of two British women arrested at Lima's Jorge Chavez airport after 11kg of cocaine was found in their luggage is a stark reminder of the dangers facing young people on the party island of Ibiza, says The Times.
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly both spent the summer working on Ibiza before travelling to Peru. It is believed they may have been targeted by gangs who regularly recruit drug 'mules' from the thousands of young people drawn to the island's hedonistic club scene. Here are five key facts about Ibiza's narcotics culture.
Drugs are an integral part of the tourist economy: A senior Spanish police source told the Times that Ibiza's economy depends on the drug trade. "There's a real fear among the authorities here that if the drugs scene was closed down the whole place would collapse," he said. Although the island is keen to play down its image as a drug-fuelled party zone, the high number of drug-related arrests tells a different story. Already this season 35 Britons have been held for dealing or using illegal substances.
Young British holidaymakers are particularly vulnerable: More than 700,000 Britons visit the island each year, many of them eager to sample a hedonistic lifestyle in which drugs are commonplace. "Most middle-class British parents sitting at home would not like to know what their children get up to here," the Spanish police source said.
Those working in the club scene are particularly at risk: Connolly, 20, and Reid, 19, insist they were "coerced at gunpoint" to carry the drugs onto a flight to Madrid, The Independent says. The women met and became friends while working in "hospitality" in San Antonio, the island's clubbing capital. Ibiza and police sources say drug gangs see those working in the club scene as prime targets. For example, young people handing out flyers advertising clubs are initially recruited to tell clubbers where they can buy drugs. The recruitment process is taken one step further when they are promised "massive financial rewards and all-expenses-paid holidays abroad" in return for trafficking drugs.
The drugs are usually brought back to Spain: Drug mules recruited in Ibiza are persuaded to fly abroad - often to South America - and return to Spain posing as holidaymakers, says the Mirror. Peru, which is the single largest producer and exporter of cocaine in the world, is a favourite destination, but many mules are detected. Almost 250 people were arrested for drugs offences at Lima's Jorge Chavez international airport in 2012.
The prospects for those accused of drug trafficking are bleak: One expert told The Independent that Reid and Connolly could "languish in jail for up to three years before their case goes to trial". ·