Brutal drug gangs are allying themselves with criminals in Europe and flooding the continent with potent meth and cocaine.
A recent Italian police investigation found the Sinaloa Cartel, formerly led by El Chapo in Mexico, was flying in 500-800kg of coke per flight.
In the course of its long, bloody history, the cartel has kidnapped, tortured and slaughtered members of rival criminal gangs to dominate the north-west of Mexico.
Its members have forged connections with the Italian Mafia – the Ndrangheta – to help transport their drugs across the continent.
Robert Almonte, a former US federal marshal who spent 25 years in El Paso’s Police Department tackling narcotics, told the Daily Star: “The Sinaloa Cartel operates differently in Europe than it does in Mexico.
“In Mexico, each cartel is in competition with the other cartels and they do not hold back in trying to eliminate their rivals through violence.
“The strategy of the Sinaloa Cartel is to establish relationships with existing organised criminal groups in Europe and work with them instead of against them.
“This allows the Sinaloa Cartel to take advantage of existing drug trafficking networks and routes, and well as access to established corrupt officials.”
The cartel has also established links with Romanian gangs.
Along with Mexico, the drug is exported from Colombia, Bolivia, Panama, Belize, and Peru.
Mr Almonte also warned the gangs will ship "whatever drug is in demand".
He added: “This increases the possibility of seeing an increase in the trafficking of methamphetamine and fentanyl in the United Kingdom by the Sinaloa Cartel and the other Mexican cartels.”
The Sinaloa Cartel first established ties with European gangs back in 2009, and has remained active during worldwide lockdowns.
Meanwhile, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Gulf Cartel are also stepping up their operations in Europe while working with the Italian mafia.
The CJNG broke off from the Sinaloa Cartel after El Chapo’s arrest in 2014, and its members carry out brutal violence to intimidate their enemies.
Its cronies have targeted members of the public, police officers and soldiers – once downing an army helicopter.
Formed in the 1980s, the Gulf Cartel initially trafficked cocaine and marijuana into the US and developed ties with gangs in Colombia.
Its second leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison, recruited a raft of corrupt special forces soldiers who later formed a rival gang of their own.