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Dancing on Coke: Smuggling Cocaine Dispersed in Polyvinyl Alcohol


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Alexander L.N. van Nuijs, M.Sc.
Toxicological Centre
University of Antwerp
Universiteitsplein 1
2610 Antwerp


Abstract:  Recent trends suggest that cocaine smugglers have become more and more inventive to avoid seizures of large amounts of cocaine transported between countries. We report a case of a mail parcel containing a dance pad which was seized at the Customs Department of Brussels Airport, Belgium. After investigation, the inside of the dance pad was found to contain a thick polymer, which tested positive for cocaine. Analysis was performed using a routine colorimetric swipe test, gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The polymer was identified as polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and contained 18% cocaine, corresponding to a street value of € 20,000. Laboratory experiments showed that cocaine could be easily extracted from the PVA matrix. This case report reveals a new smuggling technique for the transportation of large amounts of cocaine from one country to another.