A 44-year-old man has died of an overdose at Venice Airport after a bag of cocaine ruptured in his stomach. Stefano Gaviolo started to become ill after he arrived at Marco Polo Airport on a flight from Brazil, according to the Local.
He is reported to have swallowed 90 bags of cocaine, one of which split. As the cocaine took its effect on him he headed for the toilet in arrivals, were he was found slumped on the ground by another passenger.
Airport staff took him to the emergency room but he was already dead by the time he arrived. Gavioli already had several previous drugs-related convictions.
Smuggling of cocaine by this method is big business but carries high risks. Most ‘drugs mules’ carry enough pure cocaine to kill themselves several times over and are therefore reliant upon the packaging of it to keep them alive. Often this packaging is little more than a condom.
The mules swallow the bags of cocaine in a South American country where the product is cheap, and fly to a European or North American country. They allow nature to take its course before repackaging the cocaine for sale.
The news of Gaviolo’s death comes on the day the 2014 World Drug Report is published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The report shows that the cocaine business is starting to recover after a slump during the recession, with major declines in imports starting to level off. The business peaked in 2006, shortly before the financial crash, but as the recession gripped, consumption dropped markedly.
Despite the illegality of cocaine it is widely available in Europe as police and customs find it almost impossible to ‘fight the market’. The problem is exacerbated due to the value of pure cocaine in South America being only a tiny fraction of its street value in Europe. Importation is therefore a hugely profitable business.
The prevalence of cocaine and the profits that can be garnered by risk takers like Mr Gavioli have led some to question whether drugs laws should be relaxed.
President Santos of Colombia, who is one of the few leaders in the country to have fought a genuine war against the drugs cartels has previously argued that a “rethink” would “take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking”. He went on to say: “If that means legalising, and the world thinks that’s the solution, I will welcome it. I’m not against it.”
He is one of a growing number that believe only legitimate pharmaceutical companies have the might to defeat the illegal drugs gangs.