The amount of cocaine being seized at the port of Antwerp is so large that the incinerators can no longer burn it all, which is why tonnes of drugs are now being stored in customs warehouses.
In 2021, customs, police and courts seized nearly 90 tonnes of cocaine in the port of Antwerp – an absolute record, but it will likely be broken again this year as customs expects that the 100-tonne mark will be reached this year. Street value: (at least) €5 billion.
However, these record amounts of cocaine are causing a major security problem: authorised incinerators cannot process the seized cocaine, so the stockpile continues to grow. Currently, dozens of tonnes of coke are waiting to be destroyed in customs warehouses.
"The rapid destruction of confiscated goods is an ongoing challenge," Francis Adyns, spokesperson for the FPS Finance, under which Customs falls, told Gazet van Antwerpen. "Due to the technical limitation of the licensed incinerators and environmental standards, we have to use several incinerators."
Several weeks ago, Antwerp prosecutor Franky De Keyser already raised the alarm with Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, as "the mountain of cocaine" is now so big that criminal gangs might well get the idea of raiding the customs warehouses.
"We are urgently looking for additional incineration capacity," a spokesperson for Van Quickenborne told De Standaard, adding that the incinerators cannot destroy too large quantities of drugs at once. "Burning cocaine releases substances that are very harmful to the filters of the incinerator. At most, we can process 1,000 to 1,500 kg per session."
The destruction of drugs is done by appointment, meaning those sessions have to be requested and scheduled. "The more cocaine you seize, the more time you need. And there is a lot of cocaine."