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Cocaine seized at key European port busts records

Published on January 05, 2021

Belgian authorities last year seized an all-time record of 65.5 tonnes of cocaine in the port of Antwerp, the main entry point for the drug into Europe, officials said Tuesday.

The haul confirmed a big jump in discoveries made in the northern port in past years.

“Drug traffickers have not been in lockdown,” the Belgian customs service said.

In 2013, 4.7 tonnes of cocaine were seized. That rose to 62.1 tonnes in 2019, and now 65.48 tonnes in 2020, the finance ministry said in a statement.

The drugs come from Latin America — principally Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador — and are usually found hidden away in cargo containers offloaded from ships.

Belgium is the top destination for the shipments, followed by Spain and the Netherlands, with the drug consignments broken up then distributed acrosse Europe for sale.

The finance ministry estimated the street value of the drug seized last year at 7.5 billion euros ($9.2 billion), based on the average 68.50-euro price for a gramme of 60-percent pure cocaine.

Antwerp is Europe’s second-biggest port, after Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

According to the United Nations, another 25 tonnes of cocaine meant for Belgium were seized in expediting countries.

In all, 102 tonnes of cocaine headed for the European continent were intercepted last year by an international law enforcement project co-implemented by the UN.