Drugs gangs' deadly grip: Market worth €30bn a year as Europol details how Irish criminals spread fear and violence
Europeans are spending at least €30bn on drugs each year, making the narcotics market a major source of income for organised crime groups.
Around two-fifths of this total (39pc) is spent on cannabis, 31pc on cocaine, 25pc on heroin and 5pc on amphetamines and MDMA, according to the EU Drug Markets Report.
The lengthy study by Europol and the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) said that Irish gangs in particular operate a three-tier hierarchy which is "used to enforce social norms within the drug distribution" network.
The higher tier of organised crime is made up of "serious players, often formed around a kinship core, which controls the other tiers".
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The middle tier consists of young people involved in "high-risk, low reward" activities such as the holding and transporting of drugs and guns, as well as carrying out shootings and beatings.
The lower tier, it says, is made up of highly disadvantaged young people involved in assault, bullying and spreading fear on behalf of the crime gang.
This all has a major affect on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.
It also affects the functioning of local services and agencies, with drug intimidation increasing all across Europe.
Dublin has seen a number of gangland feuds explode into violence and murder in recent years.
Eoin Boylan was shot dead outside his house in Clonshaugh on Sunday evening as part of an ongoing dispute involving former associates.
The Kinahan cartel is named as one of Europe's main organised crime gangs which has expanded its operations internationally to explore opportunities in "less saturated and potentially more profitable markets" and "using Europe as an export platform".
The report refers to members of the Kinahan cartel being arrested in Ireland and Australia last year as part of a multi-national investigation into the smuggling of cocaine.
This was done through the use of air couriers travelling between Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Europol and the EU drugs agency also raised "grave concern" about the increase in violence, particularly murder and kidnapping, within the European cocaine trafficking market.
This includes Amsterdam and Antwerp but also makes reference to the Hutch/Kinahan feud as a "war between two rival Irish gangs involved in cocaine importation and distribution" worldwide.
Vietnamese organised crime gangs are described as being involved in the cultivation of cannabis in Ireland as well as several other countries.
They are said to be exploiting irregular migrants from Vietnam to operate their criminal enterprise.
Officials in the Czech Republic have noticed a reduction in cannabis cultivation associated with Vietnamese crime gangs, "probably as a result of their moving into methamphetamine production".
Europol's executive director Catherine De Bolle said the agency saw a "clear increase in trafficking activity through our operational work and the intelligence contributions we receive from EU member states. Law enforcement needs to tackle this development and that is why we are investing heavily in supporting drug-related investigations in Europe. Europol is targeting in particular top-level organised crime groups which are making a lot of money for themselves on the back of their many victims."
It also found that cocaine supply is at times exceeding demand in the EU.
This has led to crime groups transporting drugs further afield to countries such as New Zealand and Australia, using Europe as a "transportation platform".