Finally responding to the organized criminal issue at the port of Antwerp, Belgium has declared a "crime emergency" and appointed a National Drugs Commissioner.
It is in response to the enormous amount of cocaine being delivered through the port for distribution throughout the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. The port of Antwerp, the entrance to Europe from Latin America, accounted for half of the EU's cocaine seizures in 2022.
In 2022, the port of Antwerp intercepted 110 metric tons of cocaine, roughly half of the total amount discovered in all other European countries.
The amount of corruption at the port, where narco gangs have paid informants up to €80,000 for tip offs, has also alarmed the police.
Currently, the Belgian government has declared Ine Van Wymersch (42) as the country's National Drug Commissioner.
Former public prosecutor of Hal-Vilvoorde, she will supervise the customs and police fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, especially in Dutch-speaking Flanders.
The government stated that she coordinates the efforts of federal, regional, and local agencies, including those of the city of Antwerp, which has always criticized the inactivity of the national government.
She will also be responsible for ensuring that the many court districts, police zones, and provinces involved in the surveillance of the port of Antwerp — a vast area covering over 120 square kilometers – operate in unison.
Premier Alexander De Croo announced the doubling (to 300 officers) of the number of port police and federal police services in Antwerp.
In the meantime, the personnel files of approximately 16,000 port employees will be reviewed with the assistance of intelligence services.
The government also claims that it will purchase intelligent scanners that will allow it to inspect all of the approximately 400 thousand containers from Latin America that are unloaded at the port each year, especially those from Ecuador, Panama, and Colombia, where the majority of drug shipments originate.
Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne stated that the 110 metric tons of cocaine confiscated in 2022 represented 10 percent of the total amount of cocaine that landed in Antwerp that year, and that if the proportion of seizures is increased to 20 percent, "he mafias’ business will be broken."
Because the narco-mobs pose credible threats to Van Quickenborne's life, he is under 24-hour police protection.
He wishes the five largest shipping companies operating in Antwerp and Rotterdam install "intelligent" containers with digital security so that they can be tracked from beginning to end. The corporations have also pledged to implement stricter oversight of their employees.
Under another measure, the punishment for drug users will increase from €300 to €1,000. Based on an investigation of the waste water of major European cities, a 2021 study revealed that Antwerp is by far the place with the highest prevalence of cocaine. Amsterdam is third while Brussels is fifth in this ranking.
Also, the government desires improved cooperation with the Gulf states, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, where numerous trafficking barons reside.
According to sources, various agreements promising extradition have thus far been disregarded.
By fLEXI tEAM