Antwerp drug lord accused of continuing his empire from behind bars

Antwerp drug lord accused of continuing his empire from behind bars
Credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga.

Antwerp drug criminal Yannick “Flash” W. has once again been implicated in a large cocaine smuggling case, De Standaard reports. From his prison cell, where he is currently serving a 26-year sentence, he is accused of helping to smuggle 4.5 tonnes of cocaine into Belgium.

The investigation into “Flash” began after the police received a tip-off about the whereabouts of a “stash house” in Geerdegem-Schonenberg, near Mechelen. A search dragged up a haul of 500 kilos of cocaine. One suspect, Kevin I., was arrested. Follow-up searches found another 4.5 tonnes of cocaine in Mechelen and other cities in Flanders.

Investigators identified a group of men responsible for the transport and storing of the narcotics. Police alleged that the group was run by the 35-year-old “Flash”, who organised the operation from his prison cell.

International arrests

Since March, police have arrested numerous suspects linked to the case, both in Belgium and abroad. In Spain, Yersen V. (37) and Jonas W. (23) were arrested, suspected of being part of Flash’s close inner circle. Spanish authorities, along with agents from Europol, arrested the duo in the Marbella area. During searches of their homes, narcotics and firearms were discovered, prosecutor Kristof Aerts announced.

These two suspects were already the key suspects in several other drug smuggling cases. Jonas W. was handed over to Belgium from Spain on Tuesday and has been placed under arrest by an investigating judge in Mechelen on Wednesday. Extradition proceedings are still underway for Yersen V.

With the arrest of the two Belgian suspects, the total arrests linked to the cocaine smuggling investigation stood at 12. This month, even more suspected criminals have been arrested.

On 6-7 March, Federal Judicial Police in Antwerp carried out 20 houses searches in Bonheiden, Keerbergen, Antwerp, Mechelen, Heist-op-den-Berg, Duffel, Lier, Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Ingelmunster, Koekelare, and Ghent. This led to the arrest of 11 people, aged between 19 and 50. During the searches, a cannabis plantation and one kilo of cocaine were discovered.

Some of these suspects are already suspects in previous “smaller” drug smuggling cases. One suspect, Mohamed B., was also prosecuted in relation to drug sales by the “Linkeroever” gang. Jonas W., arrested in Spain, was charged at the start of the year for the attempted kidnapping of a dock worker, but was acquitted for lack of evidence.

Career criminal

The main suspect in the case, “Flash”, has a long criminal past. He was arrested in southern Spain in 2021 as a suspect in the “Vuitton gang”, which was responsible for transporting drugs across Europe.

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Since then, he has also been convicted in numerous cases involving cocaine trafficking and the attempted kidnapping of another dock worker. Police prosecuted the career criminal with the help of decrypted messages from the Sky ECC app.

“Flash” recently received a ten-year prison sentence for encouraging his family and friends to sell and import drugs from his prison cell. He is currently serving 26 years, but this is likely to grow, as he is also now implicated in the assault on a fire watchman at the port of Antwerp.

Belgium, and notably Antwerp, is a global hotspot for international organised cocaine trafficking, as recognised by the United Nations. This week, Antwerp was once again named as Europe’s cocaine capital after wastewater analysis showed that the city had the highest consumption rate on the continent.

In the State's battle against organised drug crime, the Federal Government will apply "anti-Mafia" style laws in Belgian prisons to help isolate the heads of narco-terrorist groups and the break up of criminal structures.

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