The threat to the Isle of Man from organised crime now stands at its highest ever level.

Home Affairs Minister Graham Cregeen told Tynwald that information provided by the police showed the island is an attractive market place for illegal drugs.

The information provided by Chief Constable Gary Roberts was compiled using data and sensitive intelligence obtained locally and from law enforcement agencies based in the UK.

In his reply to Ann Corlett’s (Douglas Central) question, Mr Cregeen said the threat to the safety of the Isle of Man from serious and organised crime groups has increased in recent years.

He added: ’The threat now stands at its highest known level, with such groups, largely based in Merseyside, seeking to exploit the island’s attractiveness as a market place for controlled drugs.

’Since the imposition of controls on the borders, demand for controlled drugs has at least been maintained, and in some cases, increased.’

The method of supplying drugs to the island has had to change due to the border situation, with most suppliers using the postal and freight systems to get the substances to the island rather than using human couriers.

Since the initial declaration of a state of emergency, there have been more than 150 different seizures of drugs. Mr Cregeen said this has, at least in part, ’created a debt problem, whereby those financing the illegal trade are owed money by others’.

He added: ’This in turn leads to violent crime, when those owed money seek retribution, which usually takes the form of an assault. The drugs seizures have therefore been accompanied by an increase in violent crime.

’The removal of border restrictions will, without intervention, almost certainly bring about a further increase in drug trafficking activity with a change from the use of postal services to other methods, such as the secretion of drugs inside vehicles and the use of couriers.’

When lockdown began to wind down and shops started to reopen, a letter was sent to retailers from the police warning about the potential for an increase in the number of attempted shoplifters who may be seeking to fund their addictions.

Another factor of concern for the Minister and the Chief Constable is Brexit as ’discussions with the UK authorities suggest increased risk post-Brexit from the island’s position as part of the Common Travel Area’.

Mr Cregeen said: ’These are significant threats, which will require appropriate mitigation measures to be put in place.

’The Chief Constable is actively working with partners across government to consider the most appropriate cross-government response to the above threats.’