On June 12-13, Belgian customs agents, with the assistance of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the European coastguard Frontex conducted a major operation to intercept drugs entering Belgium from the sea, according to a press release from FPS Finance.
Under the leadership of Belgium customs agents, the operation, named White Sea II, searched for drugs at sea and in ports. A total of 82 ships were checked during the crackdown, resulting in 13 seizures. Officers seized over 5 tonnes of cocaine and 18 kilograms of hashish destined for Europe. In Belgium, 22 ships were searched and three seizures turned up 1.75 tonnes of cocaine.
According to FPS Finance, customs offices focused on maritime smuggling, notably through cargo ships, transferring drugs to smaller vessels, smuggling by crew members, drugs towed underneath ships, buried at sea, or hidden within containers. The FPS notes a trend of increased smuggling in the bottom of ships or within the vessel, rather than in containers.
- Six Brussels Airport employees arrested for involvement in drug smuggling
- Hidden drug compartments in cars discovered by police in Benelux and France
Border officers worked closely with police forces from across Belgium, including the Federal Judiciary Police, the Maritime Police, the Maritime Component of the Army, and other regional forces.
The port of Antwerp is a major transport hub for drugs in Europe. Nearly 80% of drugs that reach the port of Antwerp later move towards the Netherlands, where they are then distributed across Europe. Within the space of two months, the task force arrested ten people in relation to drug smuggling at the port of Antwerp.