17 tonnes of cocaine and €1.2 million seized in major police operation in Belgium

17 tonnes of cocaine and €1.2 million seized in major police operation in Belgium
Credit: Belga

During large-scale searches throughout Belgium, 48 suspects were arrested and €1.2 million and 17 tonnes of cocaine were seized, the federal public prosecutor's office stated during a press conference on Tuesday.

During the investigation, investigators intercepted about 1 billion encrypted messages from the encryption software "Sky ECC," of which almost half have already been decrypted.

This provided the police with a wealth of information on criminal organisations, especially in the Antwerp area. There, but also in Limburg and in other provinces, 1,500 investigators carried out raids this morning in what the public prosecutor called "the largest police operation in Belgium."

The investigation has been going on for two years, during which separate investigations were opened when information came to light that required immediate intervention.

A total of €1.2 million, diamonds, jewellery, luxury vehicles, police uniforms and weapons were also seized. In the same case, 17 tonnes of cocaine were also intercepted.

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"The operation was concentrated on taking down the Sky ECC infrastructure, dismantling the distribution network and seizing the criminal assets of the distributors," said federal prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw.

Additionally, "as many Sky ECC devices as possible" were also seized from the selected users who were identified, according to him.

According to the public prosecutor, investigators have made a breach in the walls of organised crime, and "truly hallucinatory" cases have been discovered.

"Once again, it shows how criminals abuse the port of Antwerp. The legal economy is being hijacked and abused," he said. "And we cannot and will not let that happen."

In the coming weeks and months, several new cases will be opened, or additional reports will be drawn up in ongoing cases, according to Van Leeuw.

Large-scale searches were also conducted in the Netherlands today, leading to 30 people arrested for questioning, and 28 firearms seized.

In the previous days, 43 suspects had already been arrested in the Netherlands, and the investigation also led to the interception of large quantities of drugs, reports Het Nieuwsblad. The Dutch authorities also seized Sky ECC's server.

During the so-called "live" phase of the investigation, the Dutch court said, dozens of planned serious violent crimes, including kidnappings, liquidations and shootings, have occurred in the Netherlands alone.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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