Despite the best efforts of his lawyers to prevent his extradition from Switzerland, the notorious drug lord Flor Bressers, 36, returned to Belgium on a military plane after being arrested in a luxury apartment in Zurich.
Bressers, who has a master's degree in criminology, established himself in the drug trade and became the mastermind responsible for numerous trafficking schemes. These earned him a place on both Belgian and European most-wanted lists. His reputation for more forceful tactics of coercion and intimidation landed him the daunting nickname "The finger cutter".
His convictions include an offence that dates back to February 2016 when one of Bressers' associates lost a consignment of drugs. Bressers demanded a large compensation sum. It can be assumed that the issue was not resolved, as the associate later attested that Bressers had beaten him and cut his fingers.
Bressers was subsequently sentenced to four years in prison by the Antwerp Court of Appeal for theft with violence in a gang, extortion with weapons and holding a victim hostage under threat of death.
The European intelligence agencies gaining access to the Sky ECC encrypted messaging service used by criminals to evade authorities, Bressers was confirmed as being a major figure in the drug trade. Notably, he was identified as the architect of a huge drug case involving Kriva Rochem, an Antwerp company specialised in desalinating seawater.
It later emerged that the company was used as a cover for smuggling at least 3.2 tons of cocaine.
Police and the judiciary were able to hack the messaging system and decipher messages between the "Bongoking" (Bressers' pseudonym) and his criminal accomplices. The team deciphering the messages were thereby able to see how many operations he was involved in. Bressers had connections with drug lords in South America and criminal organisations in the Netherlands.
Bressers was arrested on 16 February by Swiss security forces in his rented apartment in Zurich. He lived there with his Dutch wife and their newborn child, although it is unclear how long he was hiding in Zurich as he had previously hidden in Dubai and the Seychelles.
Bressers tried to evade extradition using all means at his disposal, but the Criminal Court in Zurich overruled any such arguments, paving the way for Bresser's extradition.
- Half of Brussels young people know how to buy cocaine within a day
- Antwerp mayor calls minister kidnapping plot 'Worrying but predictable'
- Brussels Mayor calls for 'dual approach' to drug problems
He is now back in Belgium eight months after his arrest. It is not yet clear when his trial will begin in Belgium. It had initially been intended that Bressers would be interned at Bruges prison. But a serious power outage, that saw the prison lockdown, has complicated affairs.
According to the De Standard, Bressers is considered a potential suspect for the failed kidnapping attempt of Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne at the end of September. His lawyers have denied his involvement.