Madrid: Spanish police captured a record 50 tonnes of cocaine last year, indicating that consumption of the drug across Europe is almost certainly on the increase as traffickers find new routes via Africa into the continent.

Last year's haul confirmed Spain's position among the top five countries in the world in cocaine seizures, with the rest all in the Americas.

Spain now accounts for 60 per cent of cocaine finds in Europe, according to El Pais newspaper, which published the figures on January 15. El Pais said investigators believed the 2005 total may rise further as they had only counted major hauls and smaller finds had not yet been added. Spanish police work on the assumption that they intercept some 20 per cent of the drug in Europe.

That would suggest that 250 tonnes had got through, and that Europe as a whole consumed upwards of 410 tonnes of the drug during 2005.

The street value of the intercepted drugs was estimated at 6 billion euros.

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005