Belgium has recently found so much white powder that it is now dealing with a new issue: thieves are starting to target its caches of cocaine that have been seized and try to take them back.
The new and strange phenomenon, according to experts, show how far the problem is running deep in the country. There’s so much cocaine in the country. And the gangs want it back.
Drugs from Latin America, especially cocaine, are trafficked into Belgium and the Netherlands, two of the main European destinations for them. In recent months, Belgium has seen a sharp increase in drug seizures. Although Belgium is not there yet, the Netherlands can burn any cocaine it seizes the same day, providing criminals with an alluring option.
On Friday, three individuals attempting to enter a detained container close to Antwerp tied up two port workers and threatened them with knives. Subsequently, Belgian customs verified that cocaine was concealed within the container by animal pelts. Three weeks prior, the event occurred when seven heavily armed Dutch men were abruptly stopped in Antwerp while attempting to reclaim a cargo of cocaine that had been seized and was being kept in a safe facility. Since Belgium has grown to be a major hub for the worldwide drug trade, particularly in Antwerp, the second-largest port in the EU, there has been a noticeable increase in drug-related violence in the country in recent years.
Two port workers were restrained and threatened with knives by three people who were trying to break into a detained container near Antwerp on Friday. Belgian customs later confirmed that the cocaine was covered with animal pelts inside the container. The incident happened three weeks earlier in Antwerp when seven heavily armed Dutch men were halted mid-stream while trying to retrieve a load of cocaine that had been seized and was being held in a secure location. In recent years, drug-related violence in Belgium has increased noticeably, since the country has become a significant hub for the global drug trade, especially in Antwerp, the second-largest port in the EU.
Kristian Vanderwaeren, head of customs and excise at Belgium’s finance ministry, has demanded that drugs that are seized be burned as soon as possible—ideally that same day. He said on Monday on Belgian radio, “[The Netherlands] intercept, do conditioning and have enough availability to burn it immediately; we don’t have that option at the moment.” Zuhal Demir, the Flemish environment minister, blamed a staffing shortage at the federal customs office and rejected the existence of a capacity issue. She continued by saying that the disposal must be coordinated by waste material operators and customs.
When drugs are seized, stored, and then transported to an incinerator, customs inspectors must also worry about their safety. The federal police acknowledged that they are in charge of securing the shipment after customs agents seize cocaine.
In the meantime, the amount of drugs that Belgian officials have seized keeps growing. Vanderwaeren revealed in his radio interview that 40 metric tons of cocaine had been confiscated in a single month, shattering the record of 110 metric tons set in Antwerp in 2022. Hidden under a shipment of bananas, Belgian customs said last Friday that it had confiscated 7.5 metric tons of cocaine in a single consignment.
The drug dealing phenomenon in Belgium appears chronic. If no measures are taken to curb this phenomenon and stem this danger, the rich European country could once and for all turn into a huge drug cartel similar to that of Mexico.