Belgian and Dutch authorities investigating computer hacking attacks on shipping companies in the port city of Antwerp have uncovered a massive drug smuggling ring, police said Monday.
Police seized about one tonne of heroin and the same amount of cocaine after being called in by shippers whose computer systems for following container movements had been hacked by drug traffickers.
Several companies at Europe's second biggest port reported hacking attacks last year, with tracking devices put on computer terminals after break-ins or malware installed on them to gain access to information on their hard discs, the Belgian federal police said in a statement.
Being able to identify precisely the location of the containers loaded with drugs arriving in Antwerp port, the traffickers were then able to send drivers to pick them up, they said.
Links were found with criminal elements in neighbouring Holland and the authorities there were contacted.
At the end of May, police seized 250 kilogrammes of cocaine in a container of bananas leaving Antwerp for Holland after the discovery of 114 kilogrammes of the same drug in April in a cargo of wood from Chile which was landed in the Dutch port of Rotterdam.
The Belgian police said a series of raids in both countries followed, rounding up suspects and finding weapons and cash.
Two Belgians believed to be computer specialists were arrested.
At the same time, the authorities stepped up inspections of container traffic in Antwerp, leading to the seizure in late March of 864 kilogrammes of heroin, a record for the port and a major find by international standards, police said.
© 2013 AFP
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