Cocaine Seizures in Antwerp Spur International Fight Against Drug Gangs
Teun Voeten, a Dutch cultural anthropologist, has come across one of several round holes in a garage door in a quiet street in northeast Antwerp. He believes it to be a Kalashnikov, the weapon used to fatally shoot an 11-year-old girl in January.
Voeten is warning of a “revenge cycle” of violence, should this accidental result of a drug gang warning gone awry become the norm.
On the same day, Belgian authorities revealed a record 2022 seizure of 110 tons of cocaine in Antwerp. This finding, estimated to account for only 10% of the drug passing through the port, puts it ahead of Rotterdam, where 52.5 tonnes were intercepted the previous year.
In 2020, the amount of cocaine passing through the EU was estimated to be worth 12.8 billion euros. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction and Europol believe that this figure is too low, due to the increase in drug seizures.
In response to the threat posed by drug gangs, Antwerp Mayor Bart de Wever is calling for the deployment of the national Army, while the government has responded by assigning 100 extra police officers.
Stephan Vanfraechem, the managing director of Alfaport Voka, notes the increased danger posed to port workers, highlighting the need to openly discuss the problem.
Criminals are highly connected, with Jan Op Gen Oorth of Europol revealing that he has seen “messages with someone commissioning a murder from Europe to Latin America, expecting it to be carried out within the next hour”.
In a bid to take down the “high-value targets”, Europol has joined forces with countries of origin, such as Latin America, as well as those beyond Europe, including Dubai. From sophisticated methods, such as the use of fake encrypted communications platforms which led to 800 arrests in 2021, to more basic surveillance systems, various strategies are being adopted.
Gen Oorth is confident that the global coalition of law enforcement can defeat the criminal gangs behind supplying the cocaine, but warns that it will take time.