Belgium is set to announce a new record for annual cocaine seizures in the port of Antwerp on Tuesday, likely to exceed 100 tonnes amid ever more aggressive activity by drug cartels.
The port of Antwerp and the nearby port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands are the two main gateways for cocaine brought into Europe from Latin America, often hidden in fruit shipments.
Belgian facilities have broken records for the amount of cocaine detected and seized each year for the past decade.
In 2021, Belgian authorities seized a total of 89.5 tonnes (98.7 tonnes) in ports, a third more than in 2020.
As of mid-October last year, there were hundreds of finds at the port, with a cumulative total of 71.62 tonnes, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, which is in charge of customs inspections.
A Belgian customs spokeswoman told AFP that the increase in seizures occurred in the fourth quarter of 2022, just in time for Christmas, when cocaine consumption spikes.
Several interceptions seized over 3 tonnes of cocaine each, with one shipment of two containers from Suriname containing a total of 6 tonnes in mid-October.
At this rate, the total transport volume in 2022 is likely to exceed 100 tons.
But authorities estimate that despite the deployment of sniffer dogs and container scanners, only about 10% of the volume of illegal drugs smuggled through Antwerp can be stopped.
– “War on Drugs” –
Violence is on the rise with the drug trade.
An 11-year-old girl was killed Monday after attackers opened fire on a house in Antwerp. Mayor Bert de Weber called a “score settlement” suspected between the gangs.
“There is a drug war going on,” De Weber told local television.
Antwerp prosecutors say they have documented more than 200 violent cases linked to drug trafficking in the past five years.
These include threats of violence, assaults, and even explosives thrown at homes.
Cocaine continues to “overwhelm Antwerp”, according to customs officials.
So many drugs have been intercepted that law enforcement officials are concerned that they don’t have enough incinerator capacity to destroy them.
This created another problem. The concern is that the security around the site used to store the seized cocaine may not be sufficient to deter criminals looking to steal it.
Belgium has become a major gateway for cocaine to Europe ahead of Spain and the Netherlands, which were due to release Rotterdam’s 2022 cocaine traffic figures.
Panama, Ecuador, Paraguay, Colombia and Brazil are the five leading exporters of drugs based on intercepted volumes.
https://www.expatica.com/nl/general/belgium-expected-to-announce-record-annual-cocaine-haul-490157/ Belgium to release record yearly cocaine amounts