1.6 tonnes of drugs, 27 suspects: Belgian police bust major gang

1.6 tonnes of drugs, 27 suspects: Belgian police bust major gang
Credit: Federal Judicial Police

The Belgian police and public prosecutor's office arrested 27 suspects and seized 1.6 tonnes of drugs, over €80,000 and a number of weapons in a major investigation into drug crimes thanks to messages from the decrypted Sky ECC software.

On Monday morning around 5:00 AM, more than 300 police officers raided 23 different locations – mainly in the Liège region, but also in the Limburg and East Flanders provinces – in a major investigation into drug crime, the federal public prosecutor's office announced in a press release.

The police received assistance from special units and the army and arrested 27 people, including one suspect against whom several arrest warrants were pending. In the municipality of Strée in Liège, a cocaine lab was also rolled up.

"About 580 kilograms of cocaine were seized, as well as more than 1.6 tonnes of drugs with an estimated street value of more than €80 million," the press release said.

Ten firearms, including five Kalashnikovs, some €80,000 in cash, a dozen vehicles, several telephones, and a number of horses were also seized.

The public prosecutor's office stated that Colombian suspects and workers were also found at several locations (especially in the laboratories).

At the same time on Monday morning, coordinated and simultaneous actions were also carried out at two locations in Spain, resulting in the arrest of one suspect.

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The public prosecutor's office is linking the case to "Operation Sky," the major investigation into the encrypted phones of Sky ECC, which made headlines in March 2021, as Belgian police seized 17 tonnes of cocaine and €1.2 million.

For years, the police were able to read the encrypted messages that suspected drug criminals sent to each other, resulting in "the largest police operation in Belgium." In the aftermath, a number of lawyers, a public prosecutor and a drug investigator were also arrested.

The criminal organisation that was busted on Monday transported more than 15 tonnes of cocaine through Belgium, according to the public prosecutor.

"Several seizures, each involving hundreds or even thousands of kilos of cocaine could be linked to this case," the federal prosecutor said. "The extent of the identified criminal structure became clear thanks to Sky ECC data on the suspects."

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