Wholesale, importation, prices differ considerably to
retail, street values. By reference to recent newspaper articles it is clear
neither the forms in which narcotics are sold, nor the prices have changed since
my departure in 1990.
An ounce of cocaine could be purchased in the US for, on
average, $700. If one bought in bulk, discounts were available. But for this
simple exercise, I will base the calculations on an importer buying and selling a single
ounce, the equivalent of 28 (approx) grams. An ounce of cocaine would form a small pile in the palm of
your hand and could, with reasonable ease, be hidden in a myriad of places.
Having managed to import the drug into Bermuda, its value
has now increased at least 3 fold. In the summer, when there are plenty of tourists
to hide among, more cocaine enters the country. The laws of supply and demand apply;
greater supply in summer provides a value of $2300 / ounce; reduced supply in winter
provides a value of $3000 / ounce.
To gauge the profit made,
please click on the following link which is submitted in honour of Alex Severin
(Bermuda Police Narcotics dept.). Alex has been described as an 'expert
witness' with regard to street values, as was the author of this site. All
this really means is that you are aware of street prices and can undertake some
very basic calculations. As Alex is not the sharpest tool in the box, the
following is provided to assist him:
STREET VALUE CALCULATOR
Note: the above
calculator does not take into account any 'cutting' / adulteration that may
occur (see below).
Assuming the drug is imported in summer, if
acquired at $700 and sold
as a single lot for $2300, the profit on the ounce is $1600 (less expenses i.e. flight).
But the drug is sold in smaller, street quantities.
The usual method of distribution is in a small plastic 'twist'. A 'twist' is simply
the snipped-off corner of a plastic bag into which the cocaine powder is placed and tied
with a plastic-coated wire tie. Each twist contains half a gram of cocaine and is
therefore referred to on the street as a 'halve'.
A 'halve' sells for $125. Therefore, from a single
ounce, the importer can create 56 'halves' which will retail at
The profit on the ounce is $6,300
(less expenses i.e. flight)
assuming the importer acquires from the
USA and has not purchased in Bermuda the higher $2300.
If you are prepared to turn your cocaine powder into crack
cocaine (rocks), then the profit again increases. Each 'rock' will sell for $50
(they are referred to as 'fifties'). Three rocks can be created from a halve.
Therefore, from a single ounce, the importer can create 168 rocks which retail at
The profit on the ounce is
about $7,800 (less expenses
It was unusual to find suppliers
importing the rock form indeed, I can only recall one instance where an importer was found to
be in possession of a large 'rock' (it was a disc straight from the base of a saucepan
where he had cooked up a large quantity). It is not in the supplier's interest to
become involved in crack for the following reasons:
- The difference between taking a profit of $6,300 and $7,800
on an ounce was negligible when considered in relation to the risks. If selling
an ounce as halves you only need make 56 illegal transactions and hope that the persons to whom you
sold would not inform on you, attempt to steal from you or underpay you. Selling
powder is faster and safer.
- Cooking up large quantities of cocaine can be dangerous and
involves a lot more paraphernalia - also for packaging purposes.
- You get a better class of user with powder cocaine,
violence is less likely to be associated.
- Cocaine powder can be 'cut', cheap additives included to
increase the volume i.e. reduce the amount of cocaine in each halve
- Crack users want powder to support their own habit
With regard to the latter, crack users generally purchased
their powder on the streets. They pay $125 for a halve and cook this up to make 3
rocks which they then sell at $50 each making a profit of $25. Do this twice and the
profit is $50, enough to buy a rock of crack for their own use;
There were always those who were prepared to take
short-cuts. One stunt was to cut pieces of soap into little blocks that looked like
rocks of crack, more so if wrapped in a small piece of plastic and sold at night.
These duds were affectionately refereed to as 'fraggle rocks'.
It will be appreciated that the above values are in
relation to a single ounce of cocaine and that no allowance has been made for
adulteration, or 'cutting'. If one can buy 100% pure cocaine in the US (unlikely if
buying in an ounce quantity), there was no reason why it could not be 'cut'. We
typically found the cocaine exhibits we seized to be 70% (approx) cocaine, that is to say,
almost a third of the 'halve' (.16 gram) was other than cocaine.
Having imported an ounce of cocaine, this could
quickly and cheaply be added to. This was all well and good if you could
be certain that the drug you had bought was pure (100%) cocaine, but every time
the drug changed hands the likelihood of it being 'cut' increased. If it
were possible to cut the imported cocaine by just 10%, this would result in a
further 5 halves being made from the ounce, adding another $625 to the profit
(the additional overhead being about 3 grams of adulterant, a negligible sum):
The profit on the ounce (sold as powder -
'halves') is $6,925 (less expenses i.e. flight).
outlay for a US ounce of cocaine just increased ten
A sad fact about the investigation procedures in Bermuda
is that no one collated information about the exhibit's purity and the percentage of each
adulterant contained within them. The intelligence could have proved extremely
useful. Indeed, so poor was the consideration of the 'larger picture' that even
obvious connections (the arrest of Vernon Dill - see diary in November) were not pursued.
I suspect this was intentional.