Dutch police bust cannabis export ring
Dutch authorities arrested five people for suspected involvement in a large-scale operation to export cannabis from the Netherlands to countries including Italy, officials said Tuesday.
"The men are suspected of the large-scale exportation of soft drugs," said Karen Gerritsen, spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office in Den Bosch in southern Netherlands.
"We suspect that several thousand kilogrammes of cannabis were transported to foreign countries over a number of years," police added in a statement.
"We think millions of euros were made in profit."
Some 350 police officers, investigators of the prosecutor's office and customs officials customs took part in Tuesday's operation, concluding a two-year investigation.
Homes were searched in 35 locations in the Netherlands and abroad -- notably in Belgium and Italy, yielding cannabis plantations with thousands of plants. All the arrests were in the Netherlands.
Police confiscated luxury cars and watches worth several hundred thousand euros, money in 75 bank accounts, 54 properties and "large quantities of soft drugs."
Though technically illegal, the Netherlands decriminalised the possession of less than five grammes (0.18 ounce) of cannabis in 1976 under a so-called "tolerance" policy.
Cannabis cultivation and wholesale remain illegal and are in the hands of criminal organisations in a black-market business worth an estimated two billion euros ($2.7 billion) per year.
© 2011 AFP