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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Guardian

The Guardian4 min read
Rip Torn, Cult Actor And Artie In The Larry Sanders Show Dies Aged 88
Star of a string of 60s classics fell foul of Hollywood because of his temper but found a fresh lease of life in comedy, from TV’s Larry Sanders Show to the Men in Black films
The Guardian4 min read
Rip Torn: A Wild Man Of Stage And Screen And A Titan Of US TV Comedy
His fights with Dennis Hopper and Norman Mailer are the stuff of Hollywood legend, but he is best remembered as the cynical and cantankerous Artie, producer of The Larry Sanders Show
The Guardian4 min read
‘I’d Drink My Jacuzzi’: How Earthquake Scientists Prepare For The 'Big One'
After major temblors rock California, four earthquake scientists in areas of high seismic risk reveal their own plans for when the worst hits