The Guardian

The new drug highway: Pacific islands at centre of cocaine trafficking boom

Explosion in number of boats carrying cocaine and meth from Latin America to Australia is causing havoc for islands on the way • Cocaine used as washing powder: police struggle with Pacific drug influx

It is the drug route you’ve never heard of: a multibillion dollar operation involving cocaine and methamphetamines being packed into the hulls of sailing boats in the US and Latin America and transported to Australia via South Pacific islands more often thought of as holiday destinations than narcotics hubs.

In the past five years there has been an explosion in the number of boats, sometimes carrying more than a tonne of cocaine, making the journey across the Pacific Ocean to feed Australia’s growing and very lucrative drug habit.

A yacht sailing in Fiji waters.
A yacht sailing in Fiji waters. Photograph: Rob Rickman/The Guardian

Caught in the middle are countries such as Fiji, which the Guardian visited as part of a series investigating the Pacific drug highway. Other countries affected include Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and New Caledonia, whose waters and

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