Vice Squad
Monday, July 12, 2004
"Drugs Sting Put Innocent Lives at Risk"

That's the title of a front page special report in today's Guardian. The incidents referred to in the story took place in the early 1990s, and they have many standard elements, including an entrepreneurial informant and the attraction of drug crime to a jurisdiction to serve law enforcement purposes. In a nutshell, it seems as if the informant, who had dreams of being a millionaire from his informing activities, arranged with Colombian drug sellers to bring 250 kilos of cocaine (with promised follow-ups) into Britain -- cocaine that would not otherwise have come to Britain. The informant was working with Customs in Britain at the time in setting up the sting. Now how did the informant convince the Colombians to work with him on this new deal? In part, it seems, by furnishing a human hostage, a person who would be killed if the deal turned sour -- and as it was a sting, the deal was designed to go sour. When the sting was pulled off, two Colombian men were arrested in Britain, and according to their lawyers, associates of the two arrestees were indeed killed in Colombia. So it looks as if UK Customs (through the informant) initiated a drug deal (in contravention of guidelines), and went ahead with the sting even though it was likely that an innocent hostage (provided through the informant) would be killed.

One customs supervisor refused to take part in the operation, and he raised his objections in advance in no uncertain terms. Here's the relevant paragraph from the Guardian story:
The officer went on: "At the conclusion of the briefing on October 27 1993 you stated that the informant had provided a hostage to the supply organisation in South America who would be killed if anything went wrong with the importation. As we in the Division [Customs] together with the informant are the importer and the only end-users of this cocaine, we ultimately will be responsible for the death of this hostage and probably his family as well."

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