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Belgium's incinerators struggle to eradicate Antwerp port's industrial cocaine

Belgian incinerators are unable to keep up with the industrial quantities of cocaine confiscated at the port of Antwerp.

Currently, there is a backlog of cocaine that must be burned, which authorities view as a huge security risk.

Last year, 90 tonnes of cocaine were confiscated at the port of Antwerp, putting Belgium on track for another record-breaking year for cocaine seizures.

The queue of drugs awaiting incineration has been dubbed the "cocaine-berg" or "cocaine mountain" of Antwerp.

This month, customs inspectors seized 7.9 tonnes of cocaine, valued at over €200 million, trafficked from Ecuador in a shipment of bananas, adding to the backlog of drugs to be destroyed.

Local media have stated that police and judicial officials are concerned that serious and organised crime gangs operating in Belgium and the Netherlands could use their substantial weaponry to storm the detention centre where hundreds of millions of euros' worth of cocaine is housed.

Additional officers have been assigned to guard customs warehouses.

Antwerp's mayor, Bart De Wever, has informed the government that gangs have been employing observation drones to locate where cocaine is being held.

“We are urgently looking for additional incineration capacity,” said Vincent Van Quickenborne, the justice minister.

“The storage of the batches of seized cocaine is the responsibility of the customs service. These batches are of course closely monitored by police, customs and other services.

“They do everything necessary to limit the security risk. However, there has been something of a bottleneck as there have been so many seizures and also because just one incinerator was in use.”

This year, it is anticipated that more than 100 tonnes of cocaine with a street value of €15 billion will be seized. In customs warehouses, dozens of tonnes of cocaine await destruction due to the enormity of drug seizures and a safety limit of 1.5 tonnes on the amount that may be burnt.

In September of this year, AML Intelligence stated that Van Quickenborne was the subject of a personal security worry. Police foiled an alleged plot by drug criminal bosses to abduct him when they nabbed three guys armed with a Kalashnikov waiting outside his residence.

According to reports, the kidnappers intended to take the justice minister hostage in return for the release of a prisoner believed to be a crime boss.

Also discovered were fire bombs and a "restraint harness."

In the recent fictitious series "Undercover," which focused on the activities of undercover police against the large international gangs centred in Antwerp, the scope of drug trafficking in the Benelux countries of Belgium and the Netherlands was highlighted.



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