21 arrests in Belgo-Dutch bust of drug ring
Belgian and Dutch police Wednesday arrested 21 suspects in a big operation against a criminal organisation allegedly involved in the production and trafficking of drugs and cigarettes, Belgian prosecutors said.
The gang grew cannabis, created synthetic drugs in two labs and made cigarettes, the prosecutors in the Belgian province of Limbourg said in a statement.
The police investigation started in September 2020 with surveillance of a 67-year-old Dutchman living in Maaseik, on the Belgian side of the border, who was suspected of running the organisation under cover of legal activities.
Wednesday’s raids saw 29 searches carried out, and 13 people arrested in Belgium — including the suspected boss — and the eight others in the Netherlands, the statement said.
Tens of thousands of euros in cash, luxury watches and several big-cylinder cars were seized in the operation involving around 80 Belgian police officers, as well as 140 police, customs and prosecution officials on the Dutch side.
Northern Belgium, due to its proximity to the major ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, has gained a reputation for hosting drug rings.
According to Belgian authorities, trafficking between Belgium and the Netherlands has reached “explosive” proportions, with gangs extending tentacles into above-board businesses and some professions seen as key to their activities.
On Wednesday, a 38-year-old customs worker in Antwerp was taken into custody on suspicion of tipping off traffickers on which shipping containers in the port were to be scanned, local prosecutors said.