Twelve cocaine labs dismantled in Belgium last year

Twelve cocaine labs dismantled in Belgium last year
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Ahead of the publication of official crime statistics by the Federal Police for last year, Belgians newspaper Le Soir has calculated that some 12 cocaine labs were dismantled across Belgium last year, an allegedly new trend in Belgian organised crime.

The first cocaine laboratory of its kind was reported in March last year in Arendonk, in the countryside near Antwerp. Police raided the drug lab and found two large black stainless steel containers, used to store chemicals used in the production of cocaine.

The lab was used to process cocaine that arrived in its unprocessed paste or liquid form and turn it into the recognisable white powder used by some 0.6% of Belgians. Eleven suspects were arrested following the raid.

These kinds of drug labs have existed in Europe for years, Marc Vancoillie of the Drugs Department of the Central Directorate for Combating Serious and Organised Crime (DJSOC) said, but this was the first of its kind in Belgium.

According to Le Soir, large seizures made by Belgian police at the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam are causing organised criminals to find new ways of trafficking “white gold” into Europe. Seizures of cocaine in the port of Antwerp last year reached around 90 tonnes in total. In the first six months of this year, an additional 30 tonnes were seized by authorities.

To avoid interception, criminals will now traffic cocaine liquid, incorporating it into products such as paper, clothes, or plastics, and will return it back to its solid form in the lab.

This can be extremely hard to spot, due to the fact that the liquid is often soaked into materials in low concentrations, often between 5-10%, allowing it to pass unnoticed. Since the initial discovery in March, eleven more have been discovered.

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Already in 2022, this figure is continuing to rise. According to Le Soir, between 1 January and 1 July, a further ten production laboratories were discovered, as well as four storage sites and sixteen waste product dumping sites.

Last year, a total of 27 laboratories for the production or extraction of all types of drugs were dismantled in Belgium, down slightly from 2020. The use of labs for producing methamphetamine is already widespread in the Netherlands, and it is believed that organised Mexican criminals have taught the trade to their associates in Belgium.

16 labs used to create methamphetamine were busted in Belgium in the space of three three years. Criminals often dump the toxic by-products into rivers or on the side of roads, creating safety hazards to the local environment.

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