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You are an easy target, he says.

Writing about this subject is dangerous, he warns me. There are millions of euros involved in the drug trade, and if I try to “stop the profit” with my writing, I will become a target.

This is why he is concerned, he tells me. In his own words, he thinks I am crazy for even wanting to write about it.

In a previous conversation, I had explained that I wanted to interview him so I could write about organised crime from an insider’s perspective, because the obscurity in which it festers means the public’s right to know isn’t being served. If people like him didn’t help shed light on what goes on behind the scenes, nobody can know.

Obviously, he wasn’t convinced, and it took well over a year’s worth of tactful pestering for him to come round to the idea. In fact, he didn’t even want me to record audio on my phone so I could transcribe the interview later. When I explained that I would be more than happy to delete the recording right after I transcribe it, he said that if rivals kill me and take my phone, they would be able to confirm that he’s the one who talked.

“These people could kill us, you would make for an easy target,” he says again, this time with a great deal of emphasis.

The drug trafficking world is an incredibly dangerous one, and the stark reality of it became very apparent and sudden, as sudden as the emphasis he pointedly placed on ‘easy target’. Needless to say, I didn’t ask again.

After we agreed that I would write on my laptop while we talk, he also made it very clear that any kind of photos, even anonymised portraits, were of course off the table, too.

When he was satisfied with the conditions that were laid out, he agreed to speak about the drug trade in Malta without providing any details which could be used to identify him.

When I asked him what he’d like me to use as his pseudonym for this interview, he told me he wants me to call him ‘Superman’. When I laughed at his suggestion, he somewhat defensively told me that it was the most common name he could think of.

‘Superman’ is a high-ranking individual within the complicated web of organised crime in Malta. Mainly, he sells illegal drugs.

After granting his request of strict conditions of anonymity, I met Superman to obtain his insight into the industry and fact-check his claims. Obviously, I granted his request for safety reasons.

I asked him to tell me how exactly illegal drugs make their way from the hubs that produce them to the streets of a country like Malta, what the local market looks like from his perspective, and whether he thinks authorities are a problem for operatives in the drug trade or whether they fail to pose a serious threat to the black market.

Below is a transcript of the interview as it happened, accompanied by official data which maps out what we know about the scale of the local and European drugs trade and how it operates.


What are the major drugs on the local market? What are the biggest sellers?

Superman: It’s weed and cocaine. Those are the only important ones here.


Official data:

A report authored by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) tallies up with the information given by the source: weed and cocaine are the two most commonly used substances in Malta and the rest of Europe.

The EMCDDA’s report suggests that last year, 22.6 million people in the EU, or 7.9% of the total population aged between 15 – 64, consumed cannabis. The number of people who said they consumed cannabis at least once in their lifetime amounts to 84 million, or 29.3% of the population. It is estimated that 1.3% of the total population consists of people who use cannabis daily (3.7 million people).

As for cocaine, the report’s data suggests that around 3.7 million Europeans, or 1.3% of the population, used cocaine last year. Around 15.5 million people, or 5.4% of the population in the EU, said that they used cocaine at least once in their lifetime.

The data in the report also indicates that there was a universal increase in the quantity and quality of seizures of the most commonly used substances in Europe, including weed and cocaine.

A screenshot of an infographic in the EMCDDA’s report.


Where does most of the weed in Malta come from? Is it imported or is there more home-grown weed now?

Superman: Like 80% of it is coming from abroad because here you can’t really produce it in that amount. There must be around 50,000 people here who smoke weed. If everyone in that number smokes a gram a day, do you even know how much that is? That’s 50 kilos a day, minimum.

The rest is people who produce it for themselves and friends, but you can easily say that there must be dozens of kilos a day that need to come in.

And can you tell me the same kinds of numbers you would see for cocaine?

Superman: You’d have to follow it logically from the amount of users.

There must be at least 20,000 people, judging from what I see on the market. Most people don’t take coke every day, so you’d have those people probably buying roughly a gram a week.

So that’s 80,000g a month, or 80 kilos a month. And these are minimum calculations.

When summer comes and there’s half a million people passing through, everything doubles up or triples.

Okay. And where does all this weed and cocaine come from?

Superman: The weed comes from different countries. Some people try to bring things through the ferry, but most is coming through containers and shipments in the Freeport.

It’s coming from all over Europe. Rotterdam, Antwerp, cocaine from South America, Spain, Italy. All the big shipments, tonnes, half tonnes, come through the Freeport every month. It’s not happening once a year. It’s a route.

How many containers unload every day? Thousands. How many people work in the port? They can’t check them all.


Official data:

The EMCDDA’s report collects national data about the amounts seized in drug busts coordinated by authorities across Europe. As the source points out, the amount seized by authorities is only a fraction of a much wider market that is impossible to adequately quantify given that much of it exists outside the reach of law enforcement.

There is also another simpler aspect that often gets overlooked: the law-breaking product itself is what gets consumed and therefore, destroyed shortly after it arrives at its final destination. This is besides the fact that substance use is still subject to a significant amount of stigma, making it more difficult to monitor this behaviour.

A map showing Europe’s biggest import countries and information about the amounts seized by authorities in those countries.


A map of the world showing a simplified version of the main routes through which drugs get to Malta.

In February of this year, police superintendent and head of drugs squad Keith Arnaud told the press that, according to the police’s intel, the main entry-points are shipping containers, couriers, and body-packers (drug mules who use their bodies to smuggle drugs across borders through methods such as swallowing a capsule containing drugs).

Arnaud further notes that the bulk of cocaine which makes its way into Europe comes from South America, West Asia and North Africa.


Last time you said most of it is in transit to other places though. That most of it isn’t from the local market. Am I correct?

Superman: Yes, the majority is just passing. Malta is a small European city in terms of size, it’s not an important market.


Official data:

According to the Organised Crime Index, cocaine has become the most prevalent illegal drug seized in Malta by quantity in recent years, with internal consumption increasing and the price per gram decreasing. The index states that “the island remains a destination and transit country” for cocaine, and that it is most commonly smuggled through Spain and from South America. The index does not specify whether Malta is more of a destination country or a transit country.

Malta “has also seen itself become a significant transit point for cocaine travelling to North Africa, with evidence suggesting that Maltese smugglers coordinate with Libyan criminal actors to traffic cocaine to that region”.

As for cannabis, the report notes:

“Malta is a transit country for cannabis, imported mainly from Morocco, via Tunisia and Libya, or from Sicily. However, the influence of the illicit cannabis market on Maltese society is moderate, especially because of its recent legalization for personal use. Although the practice is believed to be confined to small-scale cultivation broadly conforming with the law, cannabis remains the most frequently seized and consumed drug among the Maltese population.”


When compared to other cities, how would you describe the local market? Would you say that people do a lot of drugs here when compared to other places?


You can say it like that, yes. It’s common here, everywhere. It’s like in any other big city in Europe. It’s not very big, but the port is a passing route. When they’re coming from Africa they need to come here.

From those places, you can find drugs coming from Nigeria, Ghana, people working with cartels. That is something nobody wants to talk about.

But it doesn’t only come from there. We also have Rotterdam, Antwerp, Belgium, those other places I mentioned earlier too. There is the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria as well, they control everything there. All that territory is controlled by the Italian people.

Then you have Catania in Sicily as well, Palermo is also another place. It’s coming from everywhere but it is also going, there is a lot of transferring going on here. The big ships don’t stop in one port only, they go around in circles dropping off whatever is needed.


Official data:

The data below illustrates the information that is available about drug busts carried out by local authorities.

Further data which was publicly shared by the police and the customs unit suggests both these entities reported a significant increase in cocaine seizures since 2020.

In that same interview with the Times in February, Arnaud stated that the police seized 3,000kg of cocaine in 2022, almost three times as much as the amount seized in 2021. 54 people were charged with cocaine trafficking in Malta that year.

In a press release, Customs had this to state about the amount of cocaine seized over the last four years:

Customs Malta has been breaking its cocaine seizure records, year on year, with 2019 recording a total of 750kg (in 13 separate seizures), 2020: 612kg (in 1 seizure), 2021:740kg (in 1 seizure) and 2022: 800kg and 1494kg in two separate seizures. Just last month, 800kg of cocaine, were intercepted and seized by Customs Malta at the Freeport.”


How would you describe Maltese authorities? Do you think that local enforcement is effective? Do they make your job difficult or are you able to operate easily?


Police (operations) here are very small, you can say. There aren’t enough people to control anything. That is the best thing for us, because there is no police.

Yes, if you know how to operate well, because you can’t just do what you want and there are rules you need to follow like everywhere else, you can operate.

You need to know what you’re doing because you can go into other people’s territory without knowing and they can hurt you. You need to be careful.

There are readers who might accuse you of being a bad influence on society. What is your response to that?


Honestly, I am living my life. I don’t really think about other people. If you don’t have a job, you still need to survive and life is not always easy.

It’s not like that all the time, but after you get into this you cannot just leave. Sometimes life doesn’t go how you want. Reality is reality. You want to be something else, but you are not.

Then you have to accept what you are. I don’t see myself as a criminal, if that is your question. I see myself like everybody else; trying to make something from nothing, without doing it on somebody else’s back.

Is drug-fueled violence common in Malta? How much of it would you say goes unreported?


Nobody really knows what’s happening, it’s a closed thing that is happening behind everybody. Nobody sees criminals on the street, you’re not going to recognise them.

They live like everybody else. Malta generally is a very peaceful country. People come here to have fun, normally.

You just can’t go in the wrong direction. If you go in the wrong direction, you’re going to have problems and you’re going to disappear. You’d have a problem with very rich people who have more than millions. You don’t need those problems in your life.

Violence is common in every illegal business. You will always have something like that, it’s common.

If you had to estimate the total number of significant operators in the local market, what would that number be?


I will tell you only approximately.

In every town, some more, some less, you’d have at least 20 people. In some places there will be hundreds, in some there will be ten or twenty. But there is some group operating everywhere. Literally everywhere.

Is there anything else you would like to say directly to people who will be reading this interview?


I have only one thing. Do not get into this. They don’t need these things in their lives.

Go live a life with your family. You don’t need this pressure in life. You don’t need to expose yourself to this because it is not for everybody.

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