April 19 (UPI) -- Amid a rise in the production of synthetic drugs, there have been nearly twice as many cross-border drug trafficking cases in the European Union in the last few years, a judicial agency within the bloc said in a report Monday.
Eurojust, an agency that manages judicial cooperation in criminal matters among EU nations, said in its report that cross-border trafficking cases increased from 279 in 2016 to 562 in 2020, and is worth about $36 billion each year.
According to the Eurojust Report on Drug trafficking, of the 2020 cases, almost a third involved synthetic and other new drugs.
Eurojust says suppliers of synthetic drugs exploit legal gaps to avoid prosecution by using small modifications to create new drugs. Prosecutors have to prove that drug producers knowingly use illegal quantities to produce the narcotics.
Prosecution also can be difficult because of varying regulations, the agency said.
"Cross-border investigations remain cumbersome when some countries have regulations in criminal or narcotics laws, whereas others only apply administrative regulations, creating problems with taking cases to justice," Eurojust said.
The report said organized criminal networks operating in Europe also benefit from open borders and take advantage of the complexity of the EU's legal system.