‘Crackdown’ will let drug smugglers go free
12 December 2003
AMSTERDAM — Cocaine smugglers arrested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport with less than 3kg of drugs will not be prosecuted under new plans that reliable sources claim comes directly from Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner.
When appointed last year the minister indicated the Netherlands was going to end its “revolving door” policy of releasing passengers caught with drugs.
Now,however, it is alleged that the minister has doubled the previously-allowed limit. Anyone arrested with an amount of drugs under that limit, will not be fined, summonsed or jailed, but they will be required to surrender the drugs to authorities.
The Justice Ministry has confirmed that the smuggling of drugs weighing under 1.5kg has gone unpunished for an extended period of time, an NOS news report said.
The policy is designed to relieve pressure on the judicial system caused by the rising number of drug-related arrests. The government set up several emergency jails across the country after alarm about the rising number of arrest was sparked at the start of 2002.
But with intensive searches of passengers, hand luggage and cargo on all risk flights — via so-called 100 percent inspections — the Justice Ministry hopes to crackdown on drugs gangs that organise the smuggling operations.
It claims the gangs do not care about the smugglers, but only about the drugs and that the prosecution of smugglers will not have a preventative effect on the drugs trade.
If passengers on risk flights are subject to thorough inspections, the ministry is not concerned that the stream of drugs couriers carrying less than 3kg of drugs will increase.
The latest crackdown in the war against cocaine was launched at the Amsterdam airport on Thursday and military police seized a large amount of drugs.
If the cocaine continues to flow into the country on risk flights, primarily those originating from the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname, Minister Donner has suggested banning such flights. But he also said such action was a last resort.
The 3kg rule does not apply at other Dutch airports and if someone is arrested at Rotterdam Airport, for example with 2.5kg, they will be arrested and sentenced to 18-months jail. The Public Prosecutions Office (OM) said Schiphol is an exception to the rule.
The situation has gotten out of control at Schiphol, where a huge number of drugs couriers try to elude customs officials. Courts in North Holland have a large backlog of cases and the airport’s safety has been placed at risk. Drug couriers are regularly robbed at the airport of their smuggled goods and the robberies are often violent.
Earlier this year, Minister Donner took a step back from his intiial tough stance when he announced that he does not want to prosecute all drugs smugglers. Instead, he said the authorities wanted to focus on detecting the leaders of drug gangs, but the flow of drugs into the country has not dried up.
Despite this, pposition party Labour PvdA backed the minister’s stance. MP Aleid Wolfsen has urged authorities for a long time to simply deport drug smugglers, implying that they should not be prosecuted.
But Liberal VVD MP Laetitia Griffith expects that the Netherlands will again be the target of international criticism if drugs couriers are sent home without a criminal record.
The Netherlands has in the past received criticism for the global ecstasy trade, much of which originates here. The tolerance of soft drugs is also a thorn in the side for many foreign neighbours and the decision to allow cocaine smugglers to go free could spark a further straining of international relations.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news