Belgium cocaine haul jumps in key port
The amount of cocaine seized in Europe’s key port of Antwerp jumped more than 36 percent to a record of nearly 90 tonnes last year, Belgian officials said Friday.
The amount “is, of course, frightening, a little bit,” Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem told AFP in the port after presenting the figures.
He put the sharp rise down to “an international increase in the drugs traffic” and information from Operation Sky — a vast, Belgian-led law enforcement operation carried out last year based on wiretaps of drug traffickers who thought they were using secure communications.
Belgium’s customs service said 65.5 tonnes of cocaine had been seized in 2020 compared with 89.5 tonnes last year.
The street value of the 2021 cocaine haul was 12.76 billion euros ($14.4 billion), based on an EU average price of 68.50 euros per gramme.
Belgium is now the main point of entry for cocaine into Europe, ahead of Spain and the Netherlands, customs service chief Kristian Vanderwaeren said.
The top three source countries were Panama, Ecuador and Paraguay, he said.
Officers also seized 11.71 tonnes of hashish and 1.35 tonnes of heroin last year, Vanderwaeren added.
“What worries us the most is the heroin… which comes from Pakistan and especially Afghanistan with the Taliban,” he said.
The officials stressed that scrutiny of the port was being stepped up to detect the drugs being smuggled in inside containers.
A specialised detection team has been set up, the number of drug-sniffing dogs increased and five giant X-ray scanners been brought in to screen containers.